By Marie-Christine Tayah
Stomp is a mixture of art and life, a step up for stating one’s opinion, and a step forward to embrace the world. Objects of everyday life are used and implanted into a dance…a dance of courage, a dance of sweet revolution, a dance of character, and a dance of deconstruction… a dance of life. This is what Stomp is all about.
How did the Stomp idea come up?
Stomp was created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas from Brighton, England. They used to be in a street busking group where they would perform to people out in public areas. They had an idea where they thought, “instead of bringing instruments to the performance, lets find things around us that we can use to perform with.” They would find objects around, such as dustbins, to play on and this lead to the idea of everyday objects as instruments.
Stomp is a show about using everyday instruments that you might find around your house, and using them to make music. When you look beyond the intended usage of a household object you can see how useful these things can be to make music with. Some of our “instruments” include brooms, dustbins, matchboxes…even the kitchen sink!
What are the evolving stages of stomp since it first started?
In the early days of Stomp, there were less objects used than there is in nowadays show. However, Stomp’s show still includes these core pieces that makes it so recognizable and keeps it as its foundation. Throughout the years, Luke and Steve constantly have ideas as to what may be an interesting new prop to include as one of Stomp’s “instruments”. Stomp has evolved from being a short piece of experimental theatre to what it is today: a multinational theatrical spectacle backed up by full lighting and sound departments and powered by the precise rhythmical execution of its performers.
In what parts of the world did the show tour?
This tour has been to 53 countries and counting. From France to Russia, South Africa to New Zealand, and many in between. Many countries have enjoyed our performances to which we have been invited back year after year. We find ourselves after 22 years, still breaking new ground, with Qatar and Jordan being new countries performed in last year. We also have a tour that travels around the Americas, and a resident show in both New York and London. There have literally been thousands of performances made!
Having been broadcasted on big screens and TV stations, in what ways were the stomp “look n feel” the same or different?
The look of Stomp is the same no matter if it is on the big screen, television, or in a theatre. As the shows roots are from the street, our performers act and perform in a way that reflects this. We dress in a manner accustomed to street sweepers or bin-men and the dialogue of the show is expressed in the application of rhythm to everyday objects to create music and entertainment.
Stomp being a mixture of physical theater and street percussion at the same time, how do professionalism and spontaneity meet half-way?
Stomp has been written in such a way that encourages “professional spontaneity”. From start to finish, there is a framework that the show follows. There is a running order and specific choreography to every piece within the show. Throughout the show, there are moments that let each individual performer have their own moments, whether it is a musical solo or comedic moment. These moments can sometimes be completely spontaneous and often include reactions to the crowd on the night. Around 30% of the show is made up of these individual contributions from the cast. This ensures that the show can be slightly different night after night.
How important is the musical aspect in the artists’ performances?
This show is completely live. We don’t perform to any form of backing track or click. As such, the role of music within the performance is critical and fundamentally the most important part of the show. When we learn the show, we first learn the music. Once we have learned how to play this, we then begin to figure out how to project a character to our performance while simultaneously holding down our individual musical contribution. A good performer will be able to deliver accurate music and perform at the same time.
How is the thematic leitmotif of the show created? And how many people work on the show choreography?
The leitmotif of the show is introduced by the performer who is leading the show. Every show has eight performers and as an ensemble, each performer is as important as the rest.
Throughout the show, this leitmotif is taught to the audience by way of audience participation, ultimately aiming to include them at the end of the show, collectively as the “9th member”. The shows’ creators, Luke and Steve, initially create the choreography and we as performers ensure this is applied at its best.
In what way is the classical background incorporated in the percussion mood?
The show is based around percussion but played mostly within traditional theatre. As a result, we have an element of bringing the street into the theatre. We are obviously playing to a crowd so we always ensure we perform to that crowd and even aim to include them into our performance.