By Mayuka Sarukkai (Age 15)
On Saturday, September 22, thirteen Junior Chhandam Youth Dance Company members performed a stunning collaboration with Japanese Taiko drummers at the Eden Aoba Taiko’s 15th Anniversary Concert.
The powerful performance opened with two traditional Taiko pieces that set the stage for the energy and strength that would characterize the rest of the show. As the Taiko drummers lifted their sticks and lowered them in heart-rattling unison, the drums pulsed energy throughout the hall, beating in harmony with the hearts of the audience members. This energy was not only the product of the power of the drum beat, but also of the joy and love for the art form that the performers constantly projected towards the audience. I must confess that as dancers, we might be tempted to resort to rearranging our faces into artificial smiles that, despite their advantages during photoshoots, fail to reflect inner happiness and often compromise the integrity of dance itself as an expressive art form. That night, however, I could tell that the Taiko drummers were not wearing fake smiles ― rather, their faces reflected genuine enjoyment, evident in the power of their presence on stage and the spark in their eyes.
The beauty of the entire show was the unifying force produced by a common element: rhythm. The collaborative piece between Kathak dance and Taiko drumming, titled “Fujin and Raijin” (the God of Wind and the God of Thunder), explored the relationship between the two forces of nature as they come to terms with one another to produce the perfect storm. The dancers exhibited a subtle yet defined contrast between the soft wind in their arms and wrists, and the power of their feet as they strike the floor in crisp poses. The accuracy and togetherness of the swift chakkars(pirouettes), compounded by the subtlety in the movement of the neck and eyebrows, truly blew the audience off its feet (no pun intended). Matching the energy of the Taiko drummers is not an easy feat, but the dancers delivered.Other acts included Japanese dance, the Jubilee American Dance Theatre, Valverde Peruvian Dance, and Lyric Dance and Vocal Ensemble. The American cloggers, many of which were well into their seventies, exhibited an energy that defied all age boundaries. Likewise, some young Taiko drummers and Japanese dancers were below the age of eight, but performed with the same energy and strength as the older performers on stage.
In the second half of the show, the Youth Company performed a Kathak Yoga sequence with manjira (hand cymbals) ― the emphasis on minimalist choreography, pure rhythm, and coordination echoed the principles of Taiko — namely, the concept of harmony through beats. The dancers also performed a traditional tarana that enchanted the audience with pirouettes, complex footwork, and vibrant choreography. Once again, the highlight of the performance was the energy in the dancers’ smiles, technique, and overall confidence on stage.
As my first time watching a Youth Company performance as an audience member, the experience was incredibly inspiring and eye-opening. I realized how significantly the energy that performers project on stage can influence the audience’s ability to appreciate any performance. The audience left the auditorium that night rejuvenated by an energizing two hours that kindled a spirit of togetherness and joy. Moreover, the unique opportunity to collaborate with other ethnic music and dance forms reflected the power of harmony and unity in bringing about positive global change while sharing happiness through the universal language of the beat.
Photos by Mayuka Sarukkai