The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

What's Happening

November 5, 2009

Feel the beat | Arts center snares Chinese percussion ensemble

BY TOM LAVIS

TLAVIS@TRIBDEM.COM

The art of drumming and percussive performance will take center stage as Jigu: Thunder Drums of China comes to Johnstown.

The performance group from China’s Shanxi province will perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, 450 Schoolhouse Road, Richland Township.

“This is far more than percussion,” said Michael Bodolosky, arts center executive director. “The audience will see dancing, hear singing and enjoy the sounds of some Chinese instruments that are rooted deep in the country’s culture.”

Jigu, which means beat or touch the drum in Chinese, is entrenched in folk origins and is blended with many modern musical elements.

High-tech lighting and special effects add to the drama of the spectacle.

“Through performances such as these, the Chinese tell stories in a very visual and lyrical fashion,” Bodolosky said. “The costuming is outstanding in a fast-paced show that will keep the audience enthralled with what’s occurring on stage.”

The ensemble, founded in 1988, has performed in many countries, including Denmark, Morocco, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

The Shanxi Jiangzhou Drum Arts Ensemble, as it is known in China, lets America experience the culmination of thousands of years of Chinese musical tradition.

“The selections tell a story with pageantry, mystical characters and legendary fables associated with Chinese culture,” Bodolosky said.

“Some of the passages are quite humorous.”

The drummers, percussionists and musicians range in age from about 18 to 30 years old. Their families have passed down the skills from generation to generation.

Their drumming tradition can be traced back centuries within the city of Jiangzhou, in Xinjiang region.

Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of Chinese drums and percussion music has been unearthed in the Shanxi region.

The fundamental belief of Chinese theatergoers is that theater, at best, should be an illusion of life. Good Chinese theater, therefore, must show the real struggle of humans to succeed and survive as well as display the trials and joys of living.

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