STOMP: Art and Sound In Constant Motion

An Extravaganza of Dance, Acrobatics, Music and Mime

On The Town | Sanya Gain | February 2007

The whole area around Museumsquartier was trembling as the clapping and stamping of the audience got more and more enthusiastic. During these last minutes of STOMP in Vienna, visitors and artists became one, in a wordless dialogue, with only the rhythms of sound and mime.

Minutes later, peoples’ eyes were glowing as they streamed out of the MQ’s Halle E, where every seat had been full. Still exhilarated, I made my way through the crowd behind the stage, where I was to interview one of the performers.

More successful with every season, STOMP is a world wide phenomenon, if an unlikely one. STOMP artists are part dancer, part acrobat, part musician, part mime.

They are in constant motion, tapping out rhythms on anything they can find - garbage cans, newspapers, plastic tubes, matches, pieces of plates or other omnipresent tokens of every day life.

Casually, sounds like "Ahh" or "Uhh" pulse from their mouths. Instead of words, they rely on facial expressions and body language – a challenge of image and movement they have mastered to the level of art.

Behind the stage, I had just asked for percussionist Troy Sexton, when a man turned around and smiled: "That’s me!"  We had about fifteen minutes, so I knew I had to be quick.  I smiled back.

Still breathing heavily, the 26 year-old, blond and very muscular Edinbourgher in his grey T-shirt and sweats gave me the highlights.

Drumming and percussion had always been a fascination for him. He had started playing at 10, always a ‘rhythm guy,’ and never stopped. A show like STOMP offers him the opportunity to live his passion.

"STOMP looks for new performers every year, so when I heard about an audition three years ago, I knew I had to at least give it a try," he said. It didn’t hurt that the show was created in his hometown of Edinburgh.

Still, every time he comes on stage Sexton is amazed by STOMP’s success.

"It is the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my life," he admitted. But fun!

He loves the way the audience interacts with the performers’ characters, getting involved in comic routines and the massive energy of the show, requiring full concentration on themselves, but also each other.

To prevent injuries and overexertion on tour, when STOMP performs nearly seven days a week, the artists learn one another’s moves, so there is always a substitute on hand. However, each performer has his own character, which develops during the 90- minute show.

"It’s full of humor and energy that takes you, as a performer, and the audiences, into a totally different world," Sexton said. "It’s just as if you fell into a trance for 90 minutes, acting out your feelings, living out your element - just giving the people watching the opportunity to join you."

And audiences clearly get it. "You can just see in their faces, how amazed and joyful they are when they watch you," he said.

And suddenly, my time was up. I told him again how much I liked the show, we shook hands, and he went off to the showers.

But my head was spinning. STOMP is hard to imagine until you see it for yourself, and many come not knowing what to expect. How can a show be based only on rhythm, without any real instruments? Afterwards, though, the questions are gone – this show is one of the catchiest, most stirring and fascinating performances ever. And no one was more mesmerized than I was – except maybe the performers.

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