BF. William Empson

8. ‘Ballet of the Far East’. Listener 18 (July 1937): 16-18.

The ‘ballet’ to which Empson refers is the nô and kabuki. The essay offers a provocative appreciation of both. Empson contrasts principles of the Japanese forms with European conventions of dance, music, and drama, and argues that key differences arise from differing ways of perceiving a ‘supreme God’. He concludes that the traditional music of Asia, with its tempo slower than the beat of a human heart, is for ‘serious dancing’ preferable to the music of the West, and that the ‘dramatic dancing’ of the Japanese theatre makes Western ballet seem ‘childish’ by comparison. Praises Waley’s ‘admirable’ translations of the nô (D26b), and acknowledges as well those of Stopes (see D23).






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