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Culture » Culture Features

East Meets West

Tao drumming: Way tougher than CrossFit

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When at home in Japan, at the training center in the Kuj Highlands called Grandioso, Drum Tao members' daily workouts start at 5 am and last until 10 pm. Yes, 17 hours ­­—enough to make even an Olympic athlete blanch.

But that is the type of stamina and commitment demanded for the intense, martial arts-influenced fusion dance and drum performances that has gained the Tao Drummers a global reputation, a regimen that includes hours of dance, drum and music practice, martial arts training and, oh right, a 20 km run. It is also the type of boot camp that means not everyone stays in the group; between 2003 and 2008, there were 40 dropouts from a group that tours with about that many.

Started in 1993 by Ikuo Fujitaka, musical guru and apparent fitness fanatic, the group is known for its magnificent live performances that combine high-octane physicality and cultural tradition. But while drawing on traditional Japanese cauldron drumming, bamboo marimbas, flutes and harps, most of the pieces are modern compositions arranged with heavy pop, rock and contemporary influences, making them fast-paced and intensely captivating—and with colorful, billowing costumes and stage acrobatics, Tao is the Cirque du Soleil of Japanese drumming.

Tao—Phoenix Rising

Tuesday, Feb. 4

7:30 pm.

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.

$32-45.

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