Sunday, April 29, 2018

TAO Drum Heart

It says on their website that “TAO was established in 1993 in, Japan, with the goal of entertaining the world” and they seem to have been successful.  In their first seven years they sold one million tickets.  Two years in a row their act sold the most tickets out of 1800 groups at the Edinburgh Music festival.  To date they  have played over 400 cities in 23 countries for more than 6.5 million people worldwide.

We saw the performance of “TAO Drum Heart” a short while ago at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in Santa Fe during the last part of their North American tour which started on January 31 and unfortunately won’t be repeated until their next biannual tour of North America in 2020.  I wrote about a different company, Taiko-Kodo, last year ... which I described as a visceral experience, and again so was this performance.  In fact, I almost dropped the idea of writing this because what I wrote in that previous Missive could be repeated here ...

It seemed to me that as wonderful as our previous experience was, this performance was even better, with many added features.  For those who have seen Cirque de Soleil, picture it, not in miniature, even though it was much smaller particularly in an 820 seat theater, but as more compact with, for me, far more impact.  In fact something that I don’t believe happens in Cirque du Soleil, the performers play to the audience.  There was one little boy about 4 or 5 sitting on his mother’s lap and whenever the troupe went to his side of the stage they looked right at him and smiled.  In the audience and there were many youngsters, which is unusual in a theatre where we are used to seeing an older crowd.

I wrote recently about the Lensic’s  advanced sound system but Tao brought their own two sound boards and two  sound engineers.  Even though the Lensic supplied most of the lamps Tao supplemented them with some colored lights of their own.

I thought Taiko was just a performance with drums but this production included  the shinobue, traditional side-blown Japanese  flute, which did not produce the dulcet sounds we are used to hearing from that instrument but far harsher and less melodious sound, more like a bagpipe.  There was also the  koto, a horizontal harp that looks like a zither. Acrobatics and juggling, Japanese style, were presented with a flair suggesting a night club performance. This was enhanced by extraordinary costumes by a high-fashion Japanese designer that made the most of the athletic bodies of the 25 men and 2 women in the troupe.

Just as the musical scores accentuate the experience being portrayed in  movies, when the juggling  of a large silver cubic frame is accompanied by the sound of huge drums with different size drum sticks, one the size of a baseball bat, it becomes exciting..  Also, the effect of a stage full of men twirling silver rods several times the size of a standard baton with different colored lights playing  over them is incredibly theatrical ! 

 Here is a brief sample of Tao Drum Heart ...

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