When we were leaving a performance of STOMP at the E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, we were walking behind a woman whose high heels were clicking steadily on the sidewalk. I started using my playbill as a kind of counter rhythm to her constant beat by tapping it on my wrist and jacket and strumming the pages.
STOMP does that kind of thing to you. After watching the dancers and percussionists using ordinary things – brooms, dust pans and brushes, boxes of matches, hub caps, big oil cans, and the like – you start realizing what co-creator Luke Cresswell meant when he said, like his performers, you can “make a rhythm out of anything … that makes a sound.”
Synchronized stiff-bristle brooms became a sweeping orchestra, eight Zippo lighters flipped open and closed to create a fiery fugue (and with an amazing split-second precision); wooden poles were thumped and clacked like broadswords in combat between the performers. In short, STOMP goes unconventional. No ordinary drums here.
Half the fun of their performance is watching how much the audience gets into it, especially when encouraged to go interactive by the performers. They would start by doing a double clap and asking the audience to respond. Over the evening the rhythms they tested on us became more and more complicated. And more fun. Many in the audience were able to follow right along with the performer.
It could be joyful noise, too, for the performance hall was packed up through the second balcony the evening we saw the troupe. That was great to see as well.
STOMP is apparently still packing in the audiences everywhere they are appearing in their four global productions, with single theater runs in New York City and London and two tour groups in North America and Europe.
Of special interest for the Akron audience, however, was the appearance of Elec Simon, an area percussionist and tap dancer. Simon is an alumnus of The University of Akron. He came home to strut his unique stuff as part of STOMP. Simon is the co-creator of “Heartbeat,” a piece with percussion, movement, traditional African rhythms and tap.