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June 16th, 2010 HEATHER WISNER | Theater
 

Ten Tiny Taiko Dances

Big drums, little stage.

     
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MICHELLE FUJI
IMAGE: Joni Shimabukuro

Sixteen square feet might not seem like much, but you’d be surprised what Ten Tiny Dances participants have done with such a small space over the event’s 19 shows. Sojourn Theatre once surrounded the stage with a wedding cake-filled trough; a couple in the middle staged a fight, like live cake toppers. Daniel Addy turned the concept on its side, placing his dancers on a 4-by-4 rotating cube. And then there was the time Phillip Kraft hacked the stage to bits with an ax until dancer Carla Mann’s territory was reduced to just 1-by-1. “Yeah, I scheduled them last,” admits Ten Tiny curator Mike Barber, with a laugh.

Limited real estate and a short running time (seven to 10 minutes per piece) have always been the rules at Ten Tiny, but as the 20th show approaches, Barber has devised a new twist: Ten Tiny Taiko Dances. It’s a collaborative concert with Portland Taiko, whose artistic director, Michelle Fujii, was attracted to the idea of presenting taiko in a totally new way. “Big drums plus lots of people equals large stage,” she said. “Immediately I wanted to take on this challenge to see if taiko could exist on a 4-by-4 square.”

In this case, performances only need include the concept of taiko drums, although there will be lots of actual drumming. Fujii chose five musicians to perform with the five dance groups Barber curated. Barber chose his five based on their musicality, ability to work conceptually and divergent movement styles, so don’t be surprised to find Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Artur Sultanov, along with BodyVox’s Eric Skinner, dancing with Carla Mann and the drummers Mann has incorporated into the movement. “The lines of who’s a musician and who’s a dancer get blurred,” Barber says.

He expects to be amazed and possibly amused when the dance and taiko worlds collide. “Taiko is gigantic, right? And the stage is tiny, so I think there’s going to be some great alchemy,” he says.Barber says he’s found that throwing challenges at artists consistently yields exciting results. “The constraints of a small space free us from the pressures of infinite possibilities.”


SEE IT: Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 800-745-3000. 3 and 8 pm Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, June 19-20. $18-$20. Portlandtaiko.org
 
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