Edited by Deborah R. Geis. London: Bloomsbury, 2016; 354pp. $94.00 cloth, $29.95 paper.
Cultural Responses to Occupation in Japan: The Performing Body During and After the Cold War. By Adam Broinowski. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016; 264 pp.; illustrations. $35.96 paper, e-book available.
Adam Broinowski’s insightful book examines the evolution of the performing body in Japan’s nontraditional performing arts. As a performer himself, Broinowski brings years of experience to his research and offers reflections on his own work with Gekidan Kaitaisha (Theatre of Deconstruction), a Tokyo-based performance group whose work stems from the tenets of butoh, but has evolved beyond the stereotypical notions of the form, eschewing white body makeup and exaggerated facial expressions. Broinowski provides a self-reflective and thoughtful analysis [End Page 183] of the company’s creation process. The opening chapters paint a vivid picture of the horrific results of the United States’ nuclear attack on Japan and of postwar Japan as seen through the political and cultural tug-of-war played by both the Japanese government and the US occupying forces. Broinowski gives a detailed account of how the forces shaping and censoring cultural output aimed to maintain social control and maximize corporate profit. Broinowski’s knowledge of Japanese cinema is also impressive and this book could serve as a thoroughly researched resource for the study of Japanese films of the early Cold War. The author reveals a deep understanding of butoh’s evolution from the nearly “dadaesque” experiments of its origins to the strictly choreographed, though still emotionally raw, works of Gekidan Kaitaisha and beyond.
Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching. By Carrie J. Preston. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016; pp.; illustrations. $35.00 cloth, e-book available.
Carrie Preston takes an interesting and very personal look at the perception, reception, and pedagogy of Japanese noh and examines the ways the form influenced and was influenced by Euro-American theatre. While most scholars merely note the impact noh had on W.B. Yeats as a writer and director (usually focusing on his most successful play, At the Hawk’s Well), Preston uses this piece as a springboard to examine the intricate web of writers, dancers, translators, and observers who all brought a different set of histories to an art form of which they remained eternal students. The first half of the book picks apart the Ernest Fenollosa–Ezra Pound–W.B. Yeats relationship, questioning the choices made by each and their motives, be they artistic or career oriented — Fenollosa’s desire to bridge the cultural divide, Pound’s desire to fulfill his pledge to help publish Fenollosa’s work, and Yeats’s desire to create a new form of dramatic expression. She delves deeply into the life of Itō Michio, the Japanese dancer who greatly inspired Yeats. The second half of the book looks to the contemporary use of noh by examining its influence on the work of film director Ozu Yasujirō, composer Benjamin Britten, and playwright Samuel Beckett. Preston also looks at several incarnations of At the Hawk’s Well in both English and Japanese. Interspersed throughout the book are her own reflections — from the perspective of both a teacher and student of noh — on navigating the cultural waters of noh, Japan, history, and academia.
Flowers Cracking Concrete: Eiko & Koma’s...