Stage and PerformancePerformance Techniques

Expressive elements in Nohgaku

Noh and Kyogen have characteristics unique to each of them, as well as basic elements they share in common. These elements include body language, such as posture, movements, and dance, as well as musical expressions using voice and instruments.

Posture and manner of walking constitute the basic forms of body language

In Nohgaku performances, there is the basic standing position called “kamae” and manner of walking called “hakobi.” Various characters can be represented by changing the way actors spread out their arms and legs, the way they place their center of gravity, the speed and power of their movements, and more. A diverse array of body language is created through individual postures and motions, as well as by combining and connecting them.



Kamae refers to a standing position with the knees slightly bent, the center of gravity placed on the hips, and the center of the body kept stable.



The basic manner of walking in Nohgaku is walking with the feet sliding. You walk with the sole of the feet on the floor, without raising your heels. Hakobi is a manner of walking in which you are almost sliding forward without changing the height of the center of gravity, even if the speed of movement changes.

Vocal and instrumental music are used for musical expression

Nohgaku has elements of dance theatre, which utilizes body language, as well as musical theatre. The latter consists of vocal music known as utai (chanting), in which tone and intonation are added to the script, and of instrumental music known as hayashi played by four instruments (flute, shoulder drum, hip drum, and stick drum).


Utai is vocal music produced by abdominal breathing. Utai has also been long cherished as its own unique performing art. It is comprised of utai performed by actors playing the shite (main actor), waki (supporting actor) or other roles and utai performed by the jiutai chorus which often depicts the scene and mental state of characters.


Hayashi music consists of a fue (flute) that plays the melody, and three percussion instruments, namely, kotsuzumi (shoulder drum), otsuzumi (hip drum), and taiko (stick drum). The stick drum is omitted in some plays. In addition to accentuating the dance and utai, hayashi has the role of creating a tense world of Nohgaku, going beyond simply the maintenance of harmony.