By Robert H. Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 4, 1997

Performers 'Stomp' back into Centennial Hall


Arizona Daily Wildcat

The movement starts. Someone drums a tube on the ground in the middle of the stage. A false echo comes, with a different resonance, from the right side. There is a rest. Then the left side comes in and one by one, by two, by three, they come together in harmonic sparring.

It's more than dueling rhythms, it's finding the right link between visual antics and that perfect sound.

This is how "Stomp" begins a set, and has done so since it debuted in the U.K. in 1991.

The "Stomp" experience, created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, combines dance, creative music, percussion and stunning choreography. It returned to Centennial Hall for two shows this week, yesterday and Tuesday night.

The show's numbers begin quietly, with a normal everyday activity, like reading a newspaper while sitting on the street, or washing dishes in an acoustic sink-like-drum. The pages of the paper are rustled with increasing friction until the whole "Stomp" troupe transforms into a group of vibrant animals that have just constructed a new language. The final rinse of the marching sink band ends in a booming cascade of water, followed by a slow, evocative dripping.

But there are more finite cadences. When performer Raymond Poitier teaches the crowd to clap in sequence after he begins a particular two-beat meter, it begins a friendly banter between audience and cast that lasts the whole show; although the audience doesn't always clap up to his level, they do a great job of sensing when to jump into the rhythm of the performance.

Later, when there is a human box-train hopping around the stage, performer Danielle Reddick falls out of line and becomes stuck in between the true giants of "Stomp" - the rest of the troupe performs this set with oil drums attached to their feet - she initiates the two-beat meter again and the whole audience claps like it was thought of simultaneously.

There are also sets that stand out among the rest, with the added aesthetic of dramatic lighting techniques. One begins in complete darkness with the whoosh of Zippo lighters and minute sparks of lights that confuse exactly where the music starts. The slap of the lid and the movement of flint over stone is so specific, as is the light, that when the performers move in the darkness you misanticipate where they are.

The street objects and ordinary instruments are what the performers are famous for, but sometimes the mere silence between sounds brings a deeper enjoyment to "Stomp." The shadows reflected on the walls, for example, creates a second, more subtle show. The backlighting sends huge silhouettes across the walls of Centennial Hall, yet there is a chiaroscuro effect of green and black light surrounding the performers. Essentially, this isolates the sometimes-comic personae of the performers and intensifies the action of the stomping. It even makes the choreography more complex, revealing a dance within the seemingly improvisational music.

If you could imagine a capacity crowd transfixed by sounds perfected from what any fidgety person could do with their fingers or a pen or a soda can, it can be found at a "Stomp" performance.

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