Crash… Boom! Bang!!
Ankara Congresium International Convention & Exhibition Center hosted one of the leading physical theatre performances throughout the world, originating from Brighton, UK with roots dating back to 1991. The so called “percussion group”- which I believe would be an underestimation – STOMP was originally created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. The venue is one of the biggest convention centres of Ankara, with a usable area of 80.000 m² and an exhibition hall area of 10.000 m². The auditorium where the shows take stage has a capacity of 3.107 people, with a comfortable line of sight for the spectators, considerable lighting and sound facilities.
Let’s have a quick glance at the 23 years of historical background of STOMP. From 1991 to 1994, the original cast played on tours around the world which later settled at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. This stop was when STOMP received an Olivier nomination for the “Best Entertainment Award” and won the “Best Choreography Award in a West End show”. Year 1995 was when STOMP started “franchising”, when two more productions came into scene touring the US. Later that year, a fourth cast was formed to take stage in Chile, Brazil and Korea. A fifth STOMP Company was formed in 1997, introducing the performance in Scandinavia, South Africa, Germany, Netherlands and France. Finally, another production appeared by year 2000 in San Francisco running for two and a half years.
STOMP’s most sensational appearance was at the Academy Awards of 1996, with a routine choreographed with synchronization of classic film clips and on-stage action, casting a mix of 20 performers from all five productions. The brand made its final destination at London’s West End at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2002 where it has been playing for its twelfth year now.
STOMP uses an extraordinary combination of percussive instruments. By saying instruments, I mean everyday objects of our life: broomsticks, toilet plungers, plastic bags, water containers, garbage cans, kitchen sinks, Zippo lighters and even matchboxes. In short, anything that comes to hand, which can be used to generate a sound is an instrument for the crew.
Dance, music and theatrical movement all blend in to create 1 hour 45 minutes of non-stop performance. Each choreography has its own exciting story, keeping the audience curious about what is next to come. Every minute of the show has a very high energy level. Beyond the movement and the inventive routines, the humour factor of the performance, or shall we name it “clowning” is outstanding. The audience is successfully engaged and dragged in to participate with the beats which keeps the spectators interested at all times. I remember keeping my own hands ready to clap or snap when instructed by one of the dancers throughout the show!
Although there are some quiet routines such as the matchbox quartet where the performers dance almost to their own whispers, there are times where they cut loose and bring the whole roof down when they climb on a music wall made of tons of different objects and create the loudest beat ever.
Some of the other mind tricking routines include paint cans that get tossed across the stage with a perfect synchronization and harmony, while dancers constantly keep changing places. Or the giant inner tire tubes worn around the waists with suspenders… What a great idea! The deep sound as they’re pounded along with the melody of hollow tubes, and the quartet of metal kitchen sinks bring one’s perception of creativity to its limits.
The routines usually begin with a character introducing a new object into the scene, discovering a sound that can be produced by it, while others join in bearing different versions or dimensions of the same object, thus creating a different note. Along with precisely timed aurally and visually satisfying sections, some routines point out social and psychological issues or humanly conflicts pretty well.
Searching through the web about STOMP, I came across the term Stomp Dancing which I believe has a strong connection with the show itself. Stomp dancing is a ceremony performed by various Native American tribes that contains religious and social meaning. In the native Muskogee language the dance is called Opvnkv Haco, which means “drunken,” “crazy,” or “inspirited” dance which refers to the meditative effect the dance and the medicine have on the participants. The ceremony is conducted around a fire which they call the “Mother” where the dancers circle fire in counter clockwise direction with stomping steps to the rhythm created by the women with their shell shakers. Shell shakers are hollowed out tortoise shells which have holes drilled in them and are filled with certain river rocks that will make them rattle.
The dance continues all night, with changing leaders, where “touch medicine” made from specific roots and plants are distributed to the members of the group, aiming for physical and spiritual wellness.
Well, who knows whether the creators of STOMP were inspired by this ritual or not, but the show surely bares the similar intensions. Having spent a wonderful time, I have personally experienced the musical healing and communal spirit of the performance. As to the dancers, I can assure that they are at their utmost performance physically and spiritually.