What do you get when you cross a tap dancer with a hip-hop dancer, a percussionist, an acrobat and a full-fledged badass?
A STOMP performer, of course.
Though they never plugged in a single amplifier, STOMP’s Feb. 13 performance at the Warner Theatre was nothing short of electric.
It was clear from the first several minutes of the show that the troupe, each member of which was clad in getups that would be fit for a construction site, was going to make it a priority to transform the ordinary into the utterly extraordinary.
The performers never broke rhythm, somehow managing to remedy a broken broomstick – because they were certainly forceful enough to earn several of those throughout the show – with hardly a hitch. Their precision with complex, overlapping rhythms would make even the most talented drumline’s heads spin.
The best part about the opening number was that the broomsticks they used were probably the most conventional musical instruments. Throughout the course of the show, they used everything from garbage cans and lids to inner tubes, kitchen sinks and lighters.
Each instrument they used had a unique texture and flavor, but they made it look easy to switch back and forth. They quite literally used different textures when they covered the floor with first sawdust, and later water.
The show’s real strength stemmed from this versatility. The range of different instruments they used allowed them to easily go from a number of magnificent intensity to one of a much more diminished, quiet intimacy.
The flashy colored lights and the raucous drumming of garbage cans that reverberated through the audience members flawlessly gave way to a dark stage, lit only by the lighters held by each performer. The music for this number was generated solely by the clicking of the lighters.
Not an inch of the area was wasted, either. Although the number with the lighters utilized a very small portion of Erie’s historic stage, they transitioned to others that included several of the performers playing drums suspended in mid-air as their compatriots continued to thrill the audience from the floor.
Though none of the performers ever spoke, they each emoted a strong, unique personality. There was a strong male lead – who managed to hold on to his bad boy image despite the fact that he was sporting a bleach blond mohawk – a female lead who could have rivaled Beyonce’s sassy gyrations and a goofy jokester who, despite his antics, more than kept up with his chiseled counterparts.
Despite the lack of spoken word, the performers not only commanded awe, but frequently elicited laughter, as well. This, in addition to the raw musicality and athleticism, only served to highlight each performer’s ability to transcend the limitations of live performances.
Conveying the sheer volume of some of their louder, most resounding numbers to the audience members all the way at the back of the upper level may not have been a challenge, but conveying their unique personalities was a difficult feat that they handled with the ease that only seasoned performers can have.
The final 10 minutes of the show not only included a climactic number including large kitchen sinks full of water fastened around three of the performers’ necks, but also a chance for the audience members to become involved in the show.
The mohawked leader directed the audience in a simple game of “Simon Says,” STOMP style. And even though it didn’t sound nearly as precise, it maintained the audience-performer connection they established from the first tap of the first broomstick.