Critical Interventions Lab III: Theater and Dance at Japan’s Peripheries
Organizer: Jessica Nakamura (Theater and Dance), Summer 2022
Despite the long-standing influence of Japan’s regional performance forms, from Dengaku dance’s central role in the development of Noh to Butoh choreographer Hijikata Tatsumi’s Tohoku Kabuki dances, scholarship on Japanese performing arts has primarily focused on the cultural hubs of Kyoto (traditional Japanese theater and dance) and Tokyo (modern and contemporary Japanese theater and dance). Other scholarship has skipped over Japan’s borders to examine influences of Japanese traditional aesthetics on experimental theater in Europe and the United States. This lab aims to trouble the national and international cultural production of Japanese performing arts by exploring Japan’s theater and dance at its peripheries, from its regional influences to diasporic expressions of cultural identity.
To trace the routes of and by Japanese performing arts, this lab will take two approaches:
First, we will work from within Japan, bringing regional performance forms in conversation with Kyoto and Tokyo’s performing arts. We will consider regional influences on traditional theater forms, and we will devote attention to modern and contemporary artists who have chosen to work outside of the country’s main artistic hubs, to determine how theater and dance reflect and embody local identities.
Second, the lab will examine Japanese artistic production transnationally to put concerns of Japanese studies in conversation with those of Asian American and Diasporic Studies. We will move beyond Japan’s borders to the Japanese diasporic community in Hawaii and the Americas to investigate the role of Japanese performing arts, in particular Nihon Buyō and Taiko, in constructions of cultural identity. And, we will consider how these expressions of Japanese theater and dance circulate ideas of Japanese culture across the world.