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Review: Somei Yoshino's Runaway Moon PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Leong   
Saturday, 18 November 2006
ImageSomei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble (SYTE) has has never been afraid to push the boundaries. They have incorporated dance choreography, added non-traditional instruments, and have forged alliances with other performers outside of the taiko community. With "Runaway Moon", SYTE's newest production at the SOMA theater in San Francisco, all of these elements are brought together into something as subtle and compelling as the last taste of dream before you open your eyes to the dawn.

The performance is inspired by a series of sumi-e paintings by Minette Mangahas that tell the story of a horse being chased by the moon all through the night. The paintings form an intrinsic part of the performance, being projected, and sometimes animated on the black backdrop. Guest artist Jeannie Mckenzie adds a wonderful layer of cello and violin playing that fills out the sometimes sparse drumming.

Runaway Moon is a precious, crafted little jewel of a performance. In the closed confines of SOMA, where the stadium style bleachers perches the audience right on the edge of the stage, the effect is encompassing. You feel that the traditional boundary of performer and artist has vanished, and that you are somehow drawn into a dark storyland. This is an effect that SYTE exploits to it's fullest. Ambient sounds fill the dark, performers in black crawl onto the stage, forcing you to peer through the darkness to catch tantalizing glimpses of what's transpiring. Once SYTE has your attention, once they bring you through the mirror, they take you on a journey through story.

Your attention is well rewarded. Performers dancing with uchiwa-daiko turn into fireflies under a projected moon. The horse runs through water and wind, passing by animals (and stranger spirits) dancing on the mountain. SYTE Brings all of this to life with a delicacy of touch and a deliberate exploration of dynamics. They allow the music to breathe when needed, yet don't forget the thundering power of taiko at their command.

Through out all of this, the focus is on the story rather than the performers. SYTES plays behind the curtain, dresses in black on a dark stage, plays in subdued lighting, hides behind masks and costumes. Then, just as when the story ends and the book closes you finally become aware of the storyteller, the finale of Running Moon has SYTE coming to the fore, beaming and playing taiko with all their hearts. It's definitely a satisfying conclusion to this tale.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 November 2006 )
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