The Japanese taiko drumming company, which was brought to Fresno by the Lively Arts Foundation, offered an exhilarating evening at the Saroyan
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
• Carla Lippert and Shirley Winters of Central California Ballet’s upcoming weekend production of “The Nutcracker,” along with local dancer Marin Brant.
• Julie Carter, artistic director of the women’s choral ensemble Soli Deo Gloria, which performs Friday. A special treat: A group of her singers came with her to the studio to offer a beautiful tune. (My first live-to-tape musical performance on my show!)