Road to Kumano: Taiko Project with Chieko Kojima

Road to Kumano: Taiko Project with Chieko Kojima

Hooray for ambitious new work in taiko!  Yesterday's performance was a truly cohesive collaboration with moments of great beauty.  Congratulations TaikoProject and Chieko!

Road to Kumano is a collaboration between TaikoProject and Chieko Kojima that merges established repertoire and new music from TP with Kojima's dance and narrative vision.  Kojima has structured the performance around the story of "Dojoji", the tragic Japanese noh play that features in much of Kojima's recent works and collaborations.  I was perhaps least fond of the more obvious narrative moments of the show (the voice-overs and interactions between Anchin and his potential lovers) -- the image of Kiyohime distraught by unrequited love sets off feminist alarms in me -- but the story provides a satisfying scaffolding for dance and music.  The first half of the show builds to an amazing Chaotic River scene, where TP's music, Chieko's dance, and stage effect are most successful.  David and Yumi shine alongside Chieko!

If you can see the show, do!  Road to Kumano is a significant contribution to the world of taiko performance, well worth supporting, enjoying, and pondering.

Notes for TP/Chieko

  • Birth -- Reflection off the shiny fabric covering the dancers makes movements under the cloth hard to see.  If the hand motions are important to see, reducing the downlight and increasing the light inside the cloth will help.
  • Yumi and Chieko -- the "play" scene when you're making balls and tossing them includes really nice, sharp, purposeful movements.  The gestures in later scenes where you are searching for Anchin could use more of this kind of clarity and direction.
  • Anchin entrance crazy idea -- to exaggerate Anchin's collapse following Hachijo, is it possible to have him enter stepping on blocks that kuroko move for him?
  • Training (IIRC... the odaiko piece) -- David, beautiful arm swings but perhaps gradually add a tiny bit more torso movement over the course of that section so the movements develop.
  • Betrayal (IIRC... after Anchin rebuffs his suitors) -- restated music here could be sharper following the "betrayal".  Perhaps dramatically different bachi before/after, different flute register or blowing technique, etc.
  • Jen on small hira -- I like the patterns your playing best when you only hit the 2/4 very occasionally.  A regular 2/4 slap feels a bit too modern.
  • Chieko entrance -- nice moments posing with the photographs!  I also like the use of the sash: tied on obi and trailing, as dance prop, then finally tied to drum.  To me, it represents the unrequited love.  Early in the performance, it could be introduced as a misinterpreted gift from Anchin, and after being tied to the final hachijo drum, could be pulled to rotate the drum, as though the world has gone off-kilter.
  • Hachijo -- After DW solo, jiuchi can stay strong when Chieko enters until she initiates the dramatic drop a few moments later

Notes for me

  • Ask Sueko Oshimoto (costume designer): Do you see these costumes as "period pieces" (i.e. Dojoji) or representative of the artists themselves?  Are the half-length pants referencing traditional or modern Japanese attire (i.e. hakama vs tobi)?
  • Ask Jen Caballero: Conventionally beautiful makeup makes sense for Kiyohime and Zenmyo (who are trying desperately to win the love of Anchin)... but what about for the others?
  • If at times I felt the choreography was too gesture- and expression-based, what is the alternative?  Perhaps I'm just arguing for non-narrative choreo?
  • What can I do as a producer to create honest "mood"?  How might mood changes and dynamics be exaggerated naturally in a musical setting?