Skill. Don't we admire it? Effort. Don't we appreciate it? Illusions. Don't we love them? Yes, but the real skill lies in the illusion that there is no effort involved. Let alone ferocious discipline and absolute commitment.
Stomp, the now-classic sound and movement theatre show, had its origins in the early 1980s. Because it is wordless, it is truly international - just as the cinema before the "talkies" had no lingustic barriers. It uses urban ghetto improvisation (think steel drum bands and break dancing) as well as a whole raft of techniques derived from mime, oriental theatre, ritual dance and modern circus skills.
Not to mention ballet - and not just post-Merce Cunningham modern dance. The opening "Brooms" routine is as rhythmically complex and climax-building as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The closing "Dustbin" dance features leaps and turns which wouldn't shame any premier danseur, from Nijinsky to Nureyev.
There's no instrumental music as such; sounds come from the medley of everyday objects which the dancers bring on stage. These can be as simple as brooms or shovels, matchboxes or newspapers, folding chairs or the ubiquitous dustbins. Or, quite literally, the kitchen sink. Syncopated finger clicks and hand claps are used to lure the audience into participation - and that's when it starts to sink in how very complex, meticulously rehearsed and disciplined this seemingly ad hoc and improvisatory show really is.
Risks look to be taken, for example when the performers spider up a festooned scaffolding for a virtuoso drumming display, but they are as controlled as trapeze acrobats. And no the less thrilling, even with the safety harness on.
It's a pity the programme doesn't let us identify the eight individual artists we see on stage on any particular evening from the total performing company of 12. Their skill and dedication deserve that recognition.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge)