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They've got the beat

Stomp bangs, taps, swishes and clomps to the Pikes Peak Center



You never know where an eccentric idea and a little bit of rhythm might take you. In the cases of Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, it took them right to the top.

Co-creators of the now-famous, international percussion sensation STOMP, their humble beginnings read like the quintessential rags-to-riches tale every dreamer imagines.

Cresswell and McNicholas were street performers in Brighton, England, back in the mid-'80s. Their goal was simple: to make some pocket change. Their routine involved making a rhythm out of anything that makes a sound.

Gradually, word of the duo's innovative routines spread, and as the saying goes, the rest is history -- award-winning, multimillion-dollar history.

Since STOMP hit the United States 12 years ago, its fast moving, physical and energetic show that combines the dynamics of music, theater, comedy and percussion has become a household word. And they do it all by using everything from Zippo lighters to the kitchen sink (literally) to bang out a beat.

The production now has five touring companies based in London, Boston, New York, Europe and America, which perform year-round.

John Sawicki, a five-year cast member of the American STOMP, recently discussed the wonders and rigors of life as a STOMPer.

Indy: First off, how does one become a STOMP dancer?

John Sawicki: You have to have rhythm, I would say. I mean, they pick everyday people and you don't necessarily need to be a percussionist, but you do need some kind of rhythm, and to be able to pick things up quickly. But we are actors, dancers, comedians, musicians, and we all learn from each other.

Indy: How often to you rehearse?

JS: Every day before the show, to make sure we are all on the same page. When we have a companywide rehearsal, it's usually in four-hour blocks.

Indy: Has the show changed much since the beginning?

JS: Absolutely. Because there are different people in the show, it can't always be the same thing. There's lots of room to improvise, so that makes the show change every night. Each performer brings some aspect of his or her personality to the stage, and that creates sort of a character that lives and breathes in the STOMP world. I'd say about a quarter of the show is all improvisation.

Indy: What are the weirdest items you've ever used in the show?

JS: We play everything, including the kitchen sink. But recently, we've added 5-gallon water dispensers, and they are in tune. We throw them in the air and play them. I think that's sort of a strange thing to use.

Indy: Why has the show been so successful?

JS: Because there's no language barrier. You can speak any language and understand the show, because we don't use words, or even melody. But everybody in the world shares rhythm. Our hearts beat in rhythm, we walk in rhythm -- rhythm is common to all cultures.

--Suzanne Becker

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