Sesaya specializes in music and arts education.
I caught Stomp with my children last week during its limited run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre. And it was fabulous, much more than the sum of all its percussive parts: a coherent, harmonious and engrossing blend of music, movement, percussion and comedy. Sure, we heard the cacophony of rhythmic sounds from sources you’ve come to expect, like stomping feet and shuffling brooms. The iconic trash-can-lid number– more reminiscent of gladiators wielding shields than mere garbage men–was the show-stopping finale. But there were also others–rustling newspapers, squeaking straws, clanking carts and shaking matchboxes–the apparently mundane sounds of everyday life reimagined into intricately precise, layered and correlated rhythms. There was everything, including the kitchen sink–and my children were enthralled. Ordinary objects (recall a child banging pot lids on the kitchen floor) became extraordinary sound, repurposed to mesmerizing effect, and all without anyone uttering a word. Over the course of 20 plus years, those “banging pot lids” have transformed a humble English street theatre show, co-created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, into an international sell-out sensation that has reached an estimated 14 million people across 50 countries since its inception in 1991.
What a spectacular example of a very simple truth about why we all learn music in the first place.
Stomp is catchy, infectiously so. And beneath the initial entertainment, Stomp celebrates the musicality that exists in us all. German composer Carl Orff (embraced by early childhood educators the world over), proclaimed that every child is innately musical, and that the seat of music is the body. The Orff Method teaches and introduces children to music through singing, chanting, dance, movement, drama and the playing of percussion instruments that help them make music immediately. They are encouraged to improvise, compose and play in order to help them learn the fundamental concepts of beat, rhythm and movement. And how do they start? By clapping their hands, stomping their feet and snapping their fingers. To this they add the tapping of rhythm sticks, shaking of maracas and jingling of bells. In other words, they Stomp!
Stomp is Orff come to life. Okay, larger than life. But the principle remains the same: the immediate production of sound in simple ways we can all attempt: clapping hands, stamping feet and snapping fingers. When the show comes back to town, go see it. And Stomp right along . . . with your inner child as well as your children.