Bang, swosh, tap: Stomp makes beautiful noise in Cairo

Chitra Kalyani
7 Min Read

Brooms, lids, bins, poles, sand, chalk, drumsticks, water and matchboxes – not a terribly exciting list, until you consider that these are in fact musical instruments.

It is difficult to put a finger on exactly where the charm lies. Perhaps, it is that music can be found in the mundane, and that’s what Stomp is all about.

A man strumming the chair he’s sitting on, a woman ruffling a piece of plastic, people sweeping with brooms and clanging forks in sinks. Relishing in the sound that arises out of the simple contact between man and matter makes you entertain the thought that you too could produce this music.

It is every man’s music except for one thing – the mundane is filled with music only for those that can afford the LE 400 plus tickets. Far away in the balcony, the facial expressions of performers are not as evident as to those in the parterre seats that go for LE 1,000.

It starts off simple. A man walks in sweeping the floor. Oh, but listen! Scratch, swish, and there is a rhythm. Then there is company, as someone else joins, and soon eight people are scratching the stage with what essentially is the music of brooms and tap dancing. You’re probably unaware but your head may have started nodding along to the beat.

Chairs are no longer chairs – they are drums. The sweeps of brooms and the taps of handles crescendo into loud drum beats and foot stomps.

Energy, power, youth, enthusiasm – all pulse and boom and spill onstage, as it becomes evident how the group earned its name.

Earthy and rugged, with percussionist-dancers dressed like they mean to get down to business, the music is at once familiar and new.

Created in 1991, Stomp was the product of at 10-year collaboration between creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNichols. The two first worked together as members of the street band Pookiesnackenburger and the theater group, Cliff Hanger.

In 1991, Cresswell and McNichols produced, financed and directed the original Stomp – then a seven-person performing group including Cresswell – previewing at London’s Bloomsbury Theater and premiering at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.

Since then the troupe, which now includes an eighth member, have performed to audiences in 42 countries and won 11 highly acclaimed international awards. A 15-minute short-film based on the opening act of Stomp entitled “Brooms was also nominated for an Academy Award, selected for screening at the Sundance Festival and for competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

Notable venues include a special appearance at the 1996 Academy Awards, and President Clinton’s Millennium celebrations, where STOMP performed after midnight on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The street-comedy musical style that first brought Cresswell and McNichols together still shows its imprints in the choreography of Stomp.

One performer, for example, poses as the slow, clumsy one struggling to catch-up with the others. While the others have started a clap-routine, she enters with a broom.

Each act has its own compact storyline, and one such anecdote features the clumsy girl sitting reading paper. Slowly, she finds herself surrounded by the other members of the troupe sitting in close proximity, with papers of their own, making noises and disturbing her.

She loudly shushes one man and mock-repeats his loud hacking and ruffling of newspaper, arousing much laughter from the audience. Slowly, those around her begin to create a ruckus which culminates into full-blown farce as one character mimes an opera singer, an elephant and other loud and disruptive objects. In reprobation, the character who sat silently before is then loudly shushed by her fellows.

One act began with two men swiveling from side-to-side like a clock-chime, and quickly bubbled and boiled in a loud, large boom of music, loudening into a full blown crescendo.

Another such run involved members dashing from one location and instrument to another, playing drums of plastic and metal, pulsating energy through their onstage urgency.

Figures stomped standing on large barrels, which thudded as they walked, and which they beat like drums with large sticks.

Dustbin lids were swiveled in the air, slammed on the ground, and skidded on the ground. Both artistic and rugged, the dance was as much reminiscent of martial art, as it was of the steady hammer and thump of construction work.

At various times during the show, the audience was asked to participate in claps. The signal began with two claps at the end of one performance, which was a cue to applause. When repeated, the cue produced applause again.

With another repeat, the performer now cued to listen, then pointed to the audience that followed his claps.

The clumsy character took up on calling the audience to clap, and whenever the audience was slow to follow, she let the tin can she was banging fall in mock despair to the floor.

One of the leading dancers improvised clapping rhythms which the audience followed, then the claps were softer as the audience listened closely to two fingers being tapped on a palm, and followed suit. Then, even as far as the balcony, the following sound of one finger being tapped on the hundreds palms could be felt.

At the very end, the dancer made the audience clap and snap fingers, and then let them continue unaided, waving his hands as if to signal for us to ‘carry on’ while they signed out after a good night’s job.

Clearly one of the audience favorites, in the final moments of the show, when the audience refused to leave, the clumsy character came onstage to mime it was time for opera doors to close and for her to sleep.

Catch Stomp at 9 pm on Nov. 22 and 23 at the Cairo Opera House. Tickets are available at 2739 0144 / 132 / 114. For more information, visit

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