British dance group STOMP comes to India, to perform in Mumbai
While announcing the British dance percussion group Stomp’s performance at the Oscars in 1996, Whoopi Goldberg used the line, “To show you how sound effects can make a movie come to life.” The performance that followed featured dancers and musicians who used broomsticks, plastic drums and their shoes to create beats.
Their music coincided with actors in a silent, black-and-white film, which was simultaneously played on a screen in the backdrop. In 2012, while performing at the closing ceremony of the London Summer Olympics, Stomp created an upbeat tune with steel drums and lids, wooden sticks and their feet.
These are two of Stomp’s most high profile shows in their 25-year existence. Their longest-running show is still performed in New York, USA. First performed in 1991 in Edinburgh, and created by Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell, Stomp, after touring in over 25 countries, is now making its India debut.
Says McNicholas, “We wanted to come to India since a long time. But, it never worked out. This hasn’t happened for lack of trying.” Stomp even made a movie, titled Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey, in Kerala a few years back. The group has a series of shows from December 7 to 18 at the NCPA, Nariman Point.
What began as busking in London (UK), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Paris (France) soon escalated into a movement. “We couldn’t carry the instruments everywhere. So we started playing with found instruments,” says McNicholas, who calls their style of dance ‘junk percussion’.
He adds, “We didn’t invent this style. Our inspiration came from tap dancing. We are a pseudo tribal or an urban tribal group. Hip-hop and street dance are our influences.”
Stomp also creates beats out of instruments such as shopping trolleys and cigarette lighters. Also, while the show seems to be entirely acoustic, the tiniest of sounds are captured through 24 “ambient” microphones that are strategically placed on the stage.
Interestingly, McNicholas never imagined the show would garner global acclaim. He says, “We had no idea it would become so successful. Over 25 years, the show has changed a lot.”
Ask him what made the group last so long, and he attributes it to creative freedom. “Our style of performance gives individuals a lot of leeway. Every person brings out his or her own personality. Every production has its own character. Also, we are not very strict about choreography because we don’t want people to copy [each other], but develop their own style,” explains McNicholas.
Stomp has 12 people in each group. “Percussionists, dancers and physical comedians train for nine months before they can achieve full parity with the rest of the performers. We have a slightly different show each time because we have a rotating cast. We don’t have a core team. All the performers are integral,” he says.