Pound for pound, Drum TAO delivers a world-class performance

The Japanese taiko drumming company, which was brought to Fresno by the Lively Arts Foundation, offered an exhilarating evening at the Saroyan

DANCE REVIEW

Catching up from the weekend:

How do you describe the way a drumbeat can fill and overwhelm you? Such a moment is easy to experience but tough to articulate. Chalk it up to being human. One of the first uses of percussion was to rally warriors to battle, and it’s easy to see why. A drum is a natural jolt to our nervous systems.

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Thanks to the taiko drummers of Drum TAO, the acclaimed Japanese troupe that made a stop on Saturday night at the Saroyan Theatre, I felt as if I’d experienced drumming on a higher level. With impeccable musicianship, flowing choreography, top-notch athleticism and a healthy dose of wit, the company made a lasting impression. Five impressions from a pounding good show:

1.

It’s all about the buildup. By increasing tempo and volume, drummers can make your heart rate soar. Or at least feel like it. (And, thus, the war connection.) Early in the show, which was titled “Drum Heart,” three drummers lined up in front of the biggest taiko drums in the show — which looked as big as aircraft engines — and whacked at them with long, long drumsticks. The drums were stacked pyramid style, and it reminded me of the front of a train. As the intensity increased and the dramatic lighting intensified, it suggested a steam engine lumbering out of a station.

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Feel the beat. No, really feel the beat.

The Lively Arts Foundation presents Drum TAO’s national tour of ‘Drum Heart’ at the Saroyan Theatre. You can win a four-pack of tickets

If you think you work long hours in your job, consider a typical day in the life of a Drum TAO company member on tour:

Meet in the hotel gym at 6:30 a.m. to hit the machines. After a vigorous workout of cardio and strength training, take a shower and eat breakfast. If it’s your first day in a city, arrive at the theater by 10:30 a.m. In Drum TAO, you do your own load-in — you unpack the trucks, carry in the equipment, set everything up on stage, tune the drums. Lunch is at 2 p.m. Continue pre-performance prep, any needed rehearsals, warm-ups. Shows are usually at 7:30 or 8 p.m. After the vigorous, high-octane production is over, you help strike the set and load the trucks. You’re back in the hotel after midnight.

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Drum TAO presents “Drum Heart” on Saturday, May 5, at the Saroyan Theatre.

Next day: Meet in the gym at 6:30 a.m. to hit the machines.

“We manage to keep in shape,” says Taro Harasaki, who has been in Drum TAO for 14 years.


You can win a family four-pack of tickets to Saturday’s performance of “Drum Heart” (7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Saroyan Theatre). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 10 p.m. Friday, May 4, so this is a quick turnaround. I’ll pick the winner at random. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to use the tickets. I’ll be informing the winner by email, so check yours Saturday morning.


That’s an understatement. Then again, the promotional image for the tour pretty much says it all: Most of the company members are clad in costumes baring their washboard abs. These guys and gals are not gorging on American fast food.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (April 27)

Whether it’s cutting-edge chamber music or the classic play “The Crucible,” there are lots of options for the weekend. I’ve already filled you in on Good Company’s “The Heiress,” Jeremy Denk performing with Keyboard Concerts and the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra in separate concerts, and the Fresno Community Chorus spring celebration of Leonard Bernstein. Here are even more choices:

‘The Crucible’

Don’t you love the poster for the new College of the Sequoias production? (Kudos to the designer.)

crucible poster

“The Crucible,” of course, is Arthur Miller’s 1953 classic play about the Salem witchcraft trials, but it can also be read as a searing allegory about McCarthyism or more generally mass hysteria in times of political unrest. The new production is set in a post-World War II small town that “feels eerily close to our own.”

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (March 23)

At the top of my list for promising events this weekend are two prominent arts offerings — and one so-cute-it-barks dog event, just for the heck of it: The Orpheus chamber ensemble offers “Four Centuries of Beautiful Music” in a Friday night concert at Fresno State. The annual Danzantes Unidos Festival’s Showcase Concert Series features more than 40 Mexican folk dance groups from across the U.S. with a variety of weekend events.

And don’t forget a celebration of puppies on Friday at Bitwise.

Here’s a roundup:

Orpheus

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In just 90 minutes, you’ll be able to travel through the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. “Four Centuries of Beautiful Music” features the talents of pianist Christoper Guerrerio, flutist Teresa Beaman, violinists John Morrice and Cynthia Stuart, cellist Nancy Skei and accordionist Daniel Cantrell.

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Rogue 2018: Under new artistic leadership, NOCO dances in a different direction

Preview: For the Fresno Dance Collective, festival represents a big transition and a new beginning

By Selina Falcon

The Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO) premieres “Nothing is Beautiful; Everything is Fine” at the 2018 Rogue Festival this weekend at Dianna’s Studio of Dance. This is the first show since the departure of NOCO founder Amy Querin – who just a few months ago moved to Wisconsin – and the pressure is on.

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NOCO performs through Sunday, March 4, at Dianna’s Studio of Dance. Photo / Rogue Festival

Alexandra Tiscareno, NOCO’s new resident choreographer and the creator and director of the new show, is well aware of the shoes she has to fill.

“When you hear the word NOCO in the Fresno dance scene, you immediately think of Amy,” Tiscareno said. “You think of her creative genius, her drive, and her passion … It is a lot of pressure.”

Tiscareno, 24, is from Fresno and never had any formal dance training growing up. She said it wasn’t until the spring of 2013 that she started taking dance classes at Fresno City College and Clovis Community College.


Editor’s note: Author Selina Falcon is a senior print journalism major at Fresno State. To celebrate the Rogue Festival, I’m excited on The Munro Review to include work from students in my advanced editing class at the university.


“That’s when I met Amy, and boy, did she not like me at first,” she said. “I think about it now and laugh, but back then, it was absolutely terrifying.”

Tiscareno was introduced to NOCO that spring when she took a class from Querin. She officially became involved with the company in 2015 when Querin needed help with NOCO’s aerial program.

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Star-crossed dancers will take the stage in ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The Valley Performing Arts Council presents the professional State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara at the Saroyan Theatre

Sometimes the staff of The Munro Review forgets something important. Such is the case this weekend, when I neglected to include in my coverage the Valley Performing Arts Council’s presentation of “Romeo and Juliet” at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Saroyan Theatre.

This annual collaboration between the VPAC and the renowned State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara is one of the dance highlights of the year. It’s an opportunity for professional ballet dancers to perform with students on the same stage.

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Photo / David Bazemore

State Street Ballet Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson uses the classic Prokofiev score and “intensifies the drama by highlighting the most emotional and romantic moments of the world’s most treasured love story.”

The title roles are being danced by some big names. Romeo is portrayed by Aaron Smyth, an Australian, who is soon to be a movie star. He will appear as the Snow Cavalier, opposite Misty Copeland in Disney’s upcoming feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” with a scheduled release date of November.

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From boozed-up Shakespeare to autocorrect hell, my picks for the 2018 Rogue Festival

Every year it happens without fail as I’m perusing the Rogue Festival program: A show leaps out and screams, “Come see me!” What kind of act am I drawn to? You might think that because I often go to the symphony and opera that I’d only be drawn to the highfalutin events. Not true. My No. 1 show to see at the 2018 Rogue … drum roll, please … is:

“S’Will,” a theater piece that its producers describe as a “blending of Shakespearean text, modern pop culture, and copious amounts of alcohol.”

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Fresno’s very own fringe festival kicks off Friday, March 2, at various venues in the Tower District. As a longtime audience veteran, I look forward to it every year. The following list of five picks is based on nothing more than my own hunches. Who knows? I could be recommending acts that are terrible. But that’s kind of the fun of Rogue: There’s a sense of travelling mostly blind in unchartered waters. You might discover the Northwest Passage, or you might sail off the edge of the world.

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Fresno State’s ‘Epistêmê’ offers a whirlwind of motion and emotion

You can win a pair of tickets to any of the final three performances of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble

DANCE REVIEW

The Contemporary Dance Ensemble at Fresno State continues its run of “Epistêmê,” every night this week through Saturday. There was a very small audience in the John Wright Theatre at the Sunday matinee I attended, which is a shame. These hard-working dancers deserve a bigger spotlight.

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A moment from the Contemporary Dance Ensemble concert “Episteme.” Photo / Fresno State

A few thoughts from the show:

The opening: “Project Solo,” which introduces each dancer individually, is a clever appropriation of the tropes we’ve come to expect from “Project Runway”: the focus on personality (we’re bombarded with multiple images of each dancer as he or she gets a moment onstage alone to shine); the confident, fashion-strut-style of interaction with the audience (each move telegraphing “Look at me!”); the music putting a pep in everyone’s steps (with an overall techno-beat feel). Stephanie Bradshaw’s idiosyncratic costumes help pump up that sense of individuality, and Liz Waldman’s projections have a nice, grainy feel, with complexions and hair colors posterized almost to abstraction. Most important, the dancers, guided by choreographer and CDE artistic director Kenneth Balint, exude a sense of basking in our attention — which is what the “Runway” is really about, right?


Win two tickets to any remaining performance of the Contemporary Dance Ensemble’s “Episteme.” To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post telling us why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21. If you win, you can choose from any of the following three performances: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22; 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23; or Saturday, Feb. 24.


The student choreographer: Kudos to Nathalie Quiros for her weird and transfixing “Esoteric Flux,” which began with some of the dancers huddled squarely under a white sheet, like a shuddering ice cube, moved to ribbons of fabric flinging bodies around, and ending with a kinetic, twitchy sense of disrupted time. I liked the fearlessness of the choreography and the impatience of it all, with dancers at times literally being yanked off one side of the stage or the other. Brisk, unsettling and infused with a sort of jittery zombie menace, I found myself drawn to Quiros’ distinct visual language.

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