Exploration through a concept: Japanese classical acting as a model of harmonic contrasts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Chinese concept of harmonic contrasts in the vocal expression and movement of the actor in the three styles of classical Japanese theatre - nō, kyOgen and kabuki - is explored. The Japanese theatre employs two pairs of contrasts: 1) essential contrast - kyo (fiction, abstract, etc.) and jitsu (reality, concrete, etc.); and 2) structural contrast - in (quiescence, feminine, etc.) and yō (movement, masculine, etc.). The vocal expression of the actor is divided into essential contradictory categories and within these categories the actor creates various structural contrasts, through which he moulds contradictory situations and moments of a single character, as well as contrasts between contradictory characters. In movement the actor creates a clear distinction between movements and quiescence and uses structural contrasts to create spatial contradictory postures and movements. The essential contrast is expressed through a mixture of mimetic and abstract movements. This is the first time that a comprehensive analysis has been carried out of all three styles of acting, in order to present a mutual basis as a model of the artistic potential of Japanese classical acting in contemporary theatre.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-76
Number of pages10
JournalContemporary Theatre Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1994


  • Harmony of contrasts
  • Japanese classical acting
  • Kabuki
  • Kyōgen


Dive into the research topics of 'Exploration through a concept: Japanese classical acting as a model of harmonic contrasts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this