Imagine sitting in a calm, quiet theater. The lights go dim, and a few dozen musicians take the stage. They beat drums of various sizes that make distinct sounds. Then, they move their bodies in a way that creates a surge of energy that animates the audience until everybody jumps around.

Just another day at the office for Yamoto, a Japanese troupe that will offer three shows at Queens Theatre this weekend.

The unending cycle of energy between the stage and the audience is the cornerstone of every Yamato presentation. The drummers strive to send attendees home with a new vitality and passion for life.

Ticket prices run from $20 to $42.

Masa Ogawa founded the ensemble in 1993 to interpret ancient Japanese traditions. “Yamato,” which translates as “great harmony,” is an ancient name for Japan. It’s also the former name of Nara Prefecture, which is the alleged birthplace of culture in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Ogawa favors Wadaiko drums, which are made of animal skin and ancient trees and vary in size from six inches to six feet, as the base of his shows. They mimic a strong human heartbeat that generates “Tamashi,” which is believed to be the basic elements of life: psyche, soul and spirit.

The Wadaiko percussion creates the pulse during Yamato shows in the same way that a heart beats throughout a person’s life. The performers act out stories in reaction to the syncopated sounds while other musicians play cymbals, flutes, gongs, lutes and zithers.


Show times are Saturday, Feb. 15, at 2 and 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m.

Queens Theatre is located at 14 United Nations Ave. S. inside Flushing Meadows Corona Park. There’s free parking, and a free shuttle runs between the venue and the Mets-Willets Point station on the 7 line before and after productions.

Images: Courtesy of Queens Theatre


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