Impressive exertions
June 13, 2014 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I've been watching a lot of Kodo, the taiko band, lately, and wondering what other sorts of performance are based on impressive human effort.

With taiko, for example, the pleasure, at least for me, has as much do to with watching an impressive feat of human strength, endurance, and focus, as with the drumming. What else is like this?

The circus obviously comes to mind. Certain professional sports? Certain musical pieces?

I'd also be curious to see the best examples (a la Kodo for taiko) of whatever subject you bring up.

posted by vecchio to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My gut was to say hockey but I'm going to add to that and include figure skating. Ice is just so damn slippery and skates are so thin. I dunno they just make something that requires such extreme exertion look so effortless. I've skated very regularly for 5 years and I still look like a confused puppy most of the time. Typical professional skater hits 35-40 miles per hour and THEN does stuff like jump and spin or do tricks with a little rubber disc. Crazy.
posted by chasles at 9:43 PM on June 13, 2014

Sticking with an instrumental theme, English church bellringing is a popular pastime where people will happily spend their time ringing bells that weigh up to several tons in precise patterns for three hours without a break, and where the records stand at 21 hours. It's even spead to the colonies.

Links aside, it's more about continued focus than it is physical exertion, for the most part, and while the performances are necessarily public you'll find very few people outside of the ringers themselves who've sat through a whole 3 hour peal. And, because the ringers are often in a small room in a bell tower, you don't often get to see it (the tower in Perth is a notable exception). It certainly fits your question, though, and perhaps all the more so for being done purely for the satisfaction of doing it.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:36 AM on June 14, 2014

Carrollon players are often sweaty and intellectually pooped by the end of a performance.

One of the elements in capoeira's dance-fighting is that you demostrate that you could have injured someone without actually touching them, while also making it look like a beautiful dance. It requires a really high level of spatial awareness and physical ability. It may take a few videos to parse the visual language, but the level of body control required to, say, reverse a cartwheel while on one hand, is pretty amazing. (I've played capoeira angola and can confirm that even the slow-moving stuff is super hard.) Here are some lovely games.
posted by tchemgrrl at 4:21 AM on June 14, 2014

Cirque de Soleil comes to mind. Many of their performances have feats of physical wowness that are great to watch. A lot of their old shows can be seen online via netflix or other online providers I believe.
posted by patheral at 6:39 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all. These are great, especially the bell-ringing. I'd probably add as well that the activities wouldn't even have to be "performances" in the strict sense -- mandala-making comes to mind, or the whirling dervishes.
posted by vecchio at 7:18 AM on June 14, 2014

Response by poster: Or Marina Abramovic's work.
posted by vecchio at 7:19 AM on June 14, 2014

I was going to say Cirque but that's already covered (I particularly recommend Ka because the achievement is not just physical but technical as well; the intricate work that went into building and operating that stage is absolutely bleeding edge theatrical technology).

Ballet might be something you'd want to look into, or (most) forms of dance generally.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:25 AM on June 14, 2014

Parkour is pretty amazing to watch. I am always blown away by it.
posted by Vaike at 7:52 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Drum and bugle corps.
posted by clavicle at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2014

While not requiring the same physical strength of taiko, gamelan always knocks me out for focus and intricacy. Kotekan is the interlocking stuff that gets pretty complex.
posted by Gotanda at 6:36 PM on June 14, 2014

I thought Stomp was pretty good.
posted by monospace at 10:41 PM on June 15, 2014

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