A report on the performances of Takarazuka Revue and the Wadaiko drumming from Japan.
If transformation through art were not possible, why would the male dancer take on female roles as in our classical dances like Kuchipudi and Kathakali? Through the process of performance, the male performer doing a female role enters a state of femininity. Conversely, the female performer in a male role (less frequent) would aim at entering the state of masculinity. But to go by the interpretation of the Japanese Ambassador to India, introducing the all woman Takarazuka Revue performing at the Kamani on the occasion of the India-Japanese Friendship year 2007, such cross-gender performances create a new gender - neither man nor woman. While the Takarazuka creates an illusion of man more graceful and beautiful than seen in real life, Kabuki and Noh Theatre create on stage convincing but unrealistic female characters. Created in 1914 as a new type of entertainment theatre, the Takarazuka was presumably to give space to female talent, the traditional theatres of Noh and Kabuki being totally male. During the wartime these soft musical dramas, based on adaptations from famous novels, and songs and dances of Japanese folk and copies from American musicals and standard Jazz, have built up a large female audience. Real Show Biz in all its sophistication, the costumes and getup hold audience attention. The aesthetic presentation, highly imitative of Hollywood musicals, is meant for the general public.
Wadaiko drummingThe Japanese traditional Drumming Wadaiko performance held a packed Shri Ram Theatre spellbound through an awesome percussion feast. Oedo Sukeroku Taiko, the first drumming ensemble formed by Seido Koboyashi in 1959 created a whole movement in the playing of the traditional Japanese drums made form Zelkovo wood with cow hide for the leather heads. `Wa' refers to bonding and `taiko' is drum. And this unbridled celebration of rhythm can bond performers and audience. Playing the drum with two sticks, the percussionists in the process also engage in acrobatic movements of arms and somersaults, the high vaulting movements forming part of the split-second timing for rhythmic drumming. Sometimes a solo player playing on one side, at others with two sides being played by two drummers, at times even one drummer wielding the sticks to play two drums side by side, the performance revelled in orchestrated playing of large, and small, drums producing different tones. The same drum played on the leather, the rim, the wooden sides, produced an amalgam of sounds, metallic and wooden, deep and more open. Breathing correctly is a part of the drumming exercise along with vocalisations, much like the Kathakali dancer uses. One percussionist provided the main beats, with others furnishing the elaborate fillers for the rhythmic cycle. If you felt that playing the 40-pound drums was for the male artiste, think again for the two women, matched the males in skill and agility.