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Rhythm Rounds

Bang the Objects, Quickly: If it clangs, clicks or clunks, STOMP can build a dance and percussion routine around it.

STOMP turns everyday sounds into tapestry of musical delight

By Bernice Yeung

KNOTTED ENGLISH tea towels serve as mallets for oil-barrel drums; poles and hammer handles do double duty as drum kits; trash-can lids stand in for cymbals. The percussion wizards and theatrical magicians of STOMP enlist ordinary objects for unusual purposes as they translate sound into rhythm, and silence into song.

"We see STOMP as a journey, a discovery of everyday objects and the music in the world that people take for granted," says STOMP performer Steven Dean Davis. "We reintroduce people to things that they hear every day. There's a world full of music. We just haven't been using it."

As STOMP demonstrates, rhythm can be found everywhere--in the crackle of newspapers or the clicking of Zippo lighters. The performers even use their own bodies to create beats, clapping to a quick tempo or producing mesmerizing sonic patterns rhythms through dance and, of course, stomping.


There is a musical beauty to STOMP, but the show is also comedic and exuberant. Though no dialogue or plot is involved, the performances blend precise movements, energy and inescapable rhythms into something explosive yet surreal. "It's a theater experience, not just a bunch of musicians up there playing away," says performer Henry W. Shead Jr.

"Our humor comes out from our personalities," adds performer Kamal Sinclair, "and people being real with one another--and also from people just being goofy."

According to performers' lore, STOMP owes its inception to a lime factory. Co-creator Steve McNicholas witnessed his mother sweeping factory floors, occasionally knocking away fruit caught between the bristles by hitting her broom against the floor. Supposedly, the swish of bristles and thud of discarded limes inspired McNicholas to create a program of drumming and dance honoring the totally conventional. McNicholas teamed up with Luke Cresswell to form the original STOMP troupe in England in 1991. Now, the troupe goes through 84 brooms in a mere three weeks, though limes are still excluded from the instrumental lineup.


Since its birth, STOMPers have made appearances on the Academy Awards and the Tank Girl soundtrack and won numerous awards, including an Obie and the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatre Experience. The troupe's "do try this at home, folks" material even proved perfect for an audience of inner-city kids in Detroit. "We were doing things that they could do," Shead says. "They didn't need a drum set to become a drummer. They could go home, beat on any of this stuff and make music."

Though McNicholas and Cresswell say they created STOMP purely for entertainment purposes, the experience still manages to enlighten. "It's not meant to be philosophical," says Sinclair, "but the thing that does affect you deeply is people getting on stage and being spirited. The show is arranged to be free; people are allowed to be themselves and that life comes through."

STOMP performs July 23-26 at 8pm, July 27 at 5 and 9pm and July 28 at 3 and 7pm at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 455 Almaden Blvd., San Jose. Tickets are $20­$37. (BASS or 408/288-2800)

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro

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