January 26, 2017

Kodo

Kodo

January 26, 2017 • The Capitol Theatre

Taiko drumming, which dates back to at least the sixth century, is an enormously physical endeavor. As a group of apprentices work through a routine, they constantly rotate and seamlessly swap roles. Some are seated, some are upright and some clamp their feet into ankle slots, leaning back with their legs stretched and abdominals straining as they pound out blistering rhythms on the biggest drums. As the routine reaches its ear-splitting crescendo, their faces contort and eyes bulge with effort, and they emerge at the end with chests heaving and sweat pouring. 

Kodo's stage shows are elaborate affairs: carefully lit, designed and choreographed, they ebb and flow with different forms of percussive music and employ melodic instruments such as the bamboo flute. However, what underpins the performers is the same rigor drilled into them as apprentices, and makes them honed with the tireless dedication of an orchestra or ballet company.

But despite its devotion to rigor and tradition, Kodo is resolutely not stuck in the past. In fact, it is undergoing radical change under the forward-looking leadership of Tamasaburo Bando, who joined as artistic director in 2012. Bando, revered in Japan as a veteran of kabuki theatre, has brought a greater theatrical sensibility to Kodo's shows with a view to lending their presentations a more contemporary aesthetic.

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