Stomp at the Ordway

March 29, 2011
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The amazing Stomp (at the Ordway, through April 3) has rolled into St. Paul for a breathless one week run.  Created way back in 1991, the show has enjoyed lengthy runs in London, New York, Sydney, Rio, San Francisco, Athens, Tokyo, etc.  There have been HBO specials, Sesame Street specials, Inauguration (Clinton) performances, IMAX movies, film scores.  And, of course, many many touring shows, one of which, featuring “new material”, is currently gracing the Ordway.

You know how Stomp works, yes?  It celebrates rhythm.  Pulse.  A gaggle of lithe and muscular performers, wearing dusty dungarees and old tank tops, have this throbbing beat woven into every fiber of their being.  They pursue it, beating out variations on an astonishing array of found objects: brooms, matchboxes, sticks large and small, metal cans small and large, plastic bins, trash can lids, cigarette lighters, newspaper.  They never speak.  Occasionally the rhythm slows and sometimes, during brief pauses between percussive scenes, the beat disappears altogether.  But this occurs rarely.  For 90 minutes these sweaty and powerful dancers have at this pulse.  They spin dozens of irresistible variations.

Stomp creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas have made this rough rhythmic splendor look easy.  It isn’t.  Many hours of rehearsal have gone into this show, and it shows.  It’s a grand and clever idea and Cresswell and McNicholas pursue it to the nth degree.  There’s certain sameness to the variations, but the spirit of the performances always won me over.  Even now,  as I write, my feet are tapping and my head is bobbing.

Would you call these artists dancers?  Musicians?  Maybe just Stomp-ers.  I wish I could name them, but I can’t: the program lists 11 performers, but there were only 8 on the Ordway stage and I don’t know who was left out.  (Frustrating?  You bet.  The producers have decided to cut costs thinking, correctly, that Minnesotans are too polite to say anything)  That complaint aside, though, this show is performed splendidly.  I fantasized giving the Stomp-ers chilled liters of water.

Do you respond to the wild throb of pounding rhythm?  If so, Stomp is the show for you.  Don’t eat a heavy meal or drink anything alcoholic beforehand.  Come prepared to tap your feet.

For more information about John Olive, please visit his website.

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