By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal
The walls of the Merriam Theater reverberated from an opus of banging, smashing, dribbling and drumming at Tuesday’s opening night performance of STOMP. The award winning show was created in 1991 as the result of a ten year collaboration between Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. STOMP has since been performed in more than 50 countries, with tours that included regular stops in Philadelphia. The show has had overwhelming success and draws a wide audience due to its unique form of entertainment. The production takes everyday household and industrial objects and turns them into a musical orchestra. The current cast consisted of eight body percussionists who took the stage for an hour and 45 minutes of non-stop rhythms.
For those familiar with the show, there were the trademark numbers with brooms and kitchen sinks. There were also some new musical materials incorporated such as giant rubber tubes and grocery store shopping carts. Interspersed were comedic elements at the expense of cast member, Cade Slattery. Slattery played these off with a laid back attitude that added to the humor. The backdrop included a wall of seemingly random objects that eventually became part of the show. Performers hung from harnesses in front of the wall and drummed on street signs, trash cans and metal poles to create a symphony of sound. A piece using radiator hoses was especially interesting due to the variety of tones that were produced. Zippo lighters were featured in another number. Performers stood in a straight line with only backlight and flipped the lighters on and off to generate a unique visual and audio experience.
The cast performed with an astonishing level of musicality and synchronicity throughout the performance. Many of the pieces included stomping one rhythm while creating a contrasting rhythm with an object. Added to this were changes in formations and directions which further raised the caliber of timing needed. An impressive number involving stepping, where the body is used to create rhythms and sounds with a combination of footsteps and claps, had intricate changes in both tempo and musical dynamics. A solo by Ivan Salazar, playing the part of “The Sarge,” included a call and response clapping sequence with the audience. It was fun and inclusive and demonstrated that what the artists were doing onstage was not as easy as they made it look. However, it was the group numbers that were some of the most remarkable to watch. The accuracy in timing that was required left no room for error. At one time, the artists secured rubber tubes around their waists. They alternated between drumming on the tubes, and with each other, with lightning speed. Another intricate piece consisted of stomping out cadences while dribbling and passing basketballs. One missed beat would have affected the entire outcome of the performance and this cast was on point from start to finish.
The show ended with one of STOMP’s most recognizable numbers. The cast danced with trash cans and lids in a choreographed frenzy that ended with a literal bang.