When Jorgensen explodes

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Drum Tao, a Japanese drum and dance ensemble, put on an electric performance of traditional Japanese Taiko drumming, music, and dance on Thursday night at the Jorgensen Performing Arts Center.  Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus

Drum Tao, a Japanese drum and dance ensemble, put on an electric performance of traditional Japanese Taiko drumming, music, and dance on Thursday night at the Jorgensen Performing Arts Center. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus

Drum Tao tears the roof off 

Jorgensen isn’t a loud place. Sometimes people are loud momentarily, whether on purpose (an actress screams in agony in a play) or accidentally (a frat guy on a date’s ringtone goes off during an orchestral performance), but for the most part, UConn’s premiere theater acts compose themselves on restraint. Last night, that whole concept was thrown out when Japan’s Drum Tao tore the roof off the place.  

In their 27 years of existence, Drum Tao has strived to bring a ferocious energy to every one of their performances, and they rarely disappoint. They sure didn’t last night. Composed of countless drums, jovial screams and a seemingly bottomless pool of talent, Drum Tao brought the hundreds who braved Storrs’ frigid Thursday night a wildfire. Within minutes, eyes were glued to the stage, joining in synchronized claps and screams to the will of the performers. That’s another thing: Drum Tao could have come in, blasted us all with their music, and left us with a great night, but they went beyond that. The performers’ showmanship and gravitas in creating an experience beyond music was something to behold. Between instructing the audience to participate and carefully yet masterfully placed bits of humor, Drum Tao showed why they have the recognition they hold. At some point, I wrote “I want to mosh” in my notes.  

There were several highlights of the night, but the act that brought the crowd to hysterics came near the end of the first act, where neon-laced dancers performed a carefully choreographed routine in complete darkness, leaving only the glowing outlines of their bodies. Perfect lighting controls created an illusory dance that had to be seen to be believed. The visuals were so breathtaking, you forgot that there were world-class drums lacing the dance the entire time.  

Drum Tao brought the noise, but they also showed when to pull back from percussion. Between the raucous drumming, the troupe brought it down a notch or 10 to perform beautiful flute and shamisen pieces, a much needed cooldown from the adrenaline that they brought most of the night — they were lovely.  

Although I only talked to one student, it was evident that the packed audience was beside themselves. “Tonight was really an incredible variety of talents, and you can see how each person brought their own thing into it,” Lauren Ranson, a fourth-semester psychology student said. “Their ability to be in turn with another, just working together as one cohesive whole, is pretty incredible. No sheet music or anything! It was just such an incredible mix of athleticism, music and all the other components involved. They created something memorable, different and interesting. There’s really no wonder they are as popular and acclaimed, both within Japan and around the world.”  


Daniel Cohn is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.cohn@uconn.edu.  

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