10/21/2009

Lunch with Ms. Liza Dalby - TM Symposium Day2


I had had an appointment to meet with Ms. Liza Dalby for lunch on the 2nd day of the Symposium “From Kimono to Couture” at the Textile Museum. She was a presenter of the symposium. I could not have believed that I really had lunch with busy Liza.

Ms. Liza Dalby wrote about Geisha and Kimono, and recently wrote about the tales of Genji, originally written by Murasaki-Shikibu. Her books are highly admired even by Japanese people. More recently, she wrote and published a novel “Hidden Buddhas”.
This book, “Kimono: Fashioning Culture“, is one which kimono lovers in USA almost certainly have. She is also a researcher of Japanese culture. She had been interested in Japanese culture since her infancy. Initially she stayed in Saga City in her teenage year, and then she stayed in Ponto-cho, Kyoto to research geisha and experienced geisha training. I am impressed by what she thinks about the Japanese spirit.
Before attending this symposium, she emailed me that she liked my home pages very well. On the way to Washington D.C., I have already been excited for anticipation of meeting with her.
At first, because many attendees addressed her as the main guest of the symposium, I thought that it was difficult to have a lunch with her, but she told me that this lunch time was set for our talks. Actually I talked with her for more than one hour!

We talked about kimono in the American life, traditional Japanese dance, noh performance, and so on. She regarded kimono as not only fashion, but also culture. Especially we talked up a storm about how to explain iki to American people. She focused on iki in Japanese culture now and supposed that iki can be translated as the French word “chic”.
Then she was very interested in the spirit of noh performers. I had learned noh performance in Japan. At that time, the teacher interestingly told me that noh is unfriendly performance to audiences. Noh performers should inspire imagination of audiences. Instead of making performances easily understandable like other stage performances, noh performers should make them abstract and commit their interpretation to imagination and feeling of audiences. The teacher also told me that although shi-te, a dancing hero, looked quiescent at the stage, he kept high-tension in his mind as if a top could rapidly spin for the stabilization. Actually noh dancing should not be quiescent. Sympathetic resonance between noh dancers and audiences makes noh more imaginative.

Liza said, “So that explains what I cannot easily understand. These are wonderful words.” Then she told me her favorite sentence written by Zeami: “If it is hidden, it is the Flower; if it is not hidden, it should not be the Flower.”
I mostly sympathized with her talk, but differed about the interpretation and history about shima stripes, which I should study afterward. We didn’t run out of things to discuss. The time just flied by. More than one hour for lunch ran out as quick as a flash.
Finally Liza told me, “When I visit New York City, I will go to see your kimono class.” Really? I could not believe what she said, but dreams should come true if I believe it. Now I believe it.
I promised her to invite to my room and said goodbye at the café, because the next session has already started. Thank you very much, Liza!

The photo shows Liza and me buying coffee after lunch.

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