STOMP is a unique combination of percussion, dance and physical comedy.
It was created in Brighton, UK, in 1991, as the result of a ten year collaboration between its creators, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas.
Now celebrating its 25th year, there are up to 4 STOMP productions around the globe at any given time. The South African season runs until the 22nd of September 2019.
Cammie Griffin, is one of 12 performers in STOMP, and has been a part of this production for 11 years.
She grew up in an artistic family and so it would appear that a career in the performing arts world was inevitable.
“As a youngster, I actually wanted to do sports; I wanted to do tennis, and track. I was a cheerleader for a bit. Eventually I had to choose between the two because dance became so demanding.”
Stomp is not a conventional dance show – it is so multifaceted; it is about the beat, drums, making music through dance and noise… When you auditioned for Stomp what exactly did you have to do?
“When I went to the audition I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, so I treated it like a workshop and I went to also see how the auditions are run. I didn’t go in with the mind set that it was an audition; you are literally being taught about what happens during the show. At the first audition, they taught us one of the numbers in the show which is called ‘Hands and Feet’ – it is the main groove of that number. They just want to see how well you pick up routines, and also you have to do a four bar solo. I never had any percussion background at all but I was fresh out of dance school, so I did a tap number. I did some rhythm with my feet and hand claps.”
“In the second audition, they made us do more drumming, more solos, and we had to use some of the different props. If you make it past that, they set up a Stomp obstacle course where they set up all the props that you’d use during the show. They ask you to do a four bar solo with each prop. I loved it, I had so much fun. I honestly didn’t think I would get past the first part.”
“The show is 25% improv, so they want to see that you can do something on the spot or that you can feed off of the last thing that someone did.”
“It is sports like, especially with the obstacle course. It is very physically demanding. There is a character who uses lids during the last number of the show and it is all about movement, and constantly moving. It is played by a woman or man. It is the mover of the group. All this person has is lids in his or her hands. That is one of the things we had to do during the audition, use those lids, as they wanted to see how you would move with those.”
“Everyone has a different idea of how they would use the prop which also shows the creators of the show how they can use the props creatively.”
As you have mentioned, this is a very physically demanding show – over 90 minutes long.
How do you keep so fit and stay focused throughout?
“I think now my body is so used to it. In the beginning it was hard. You are trying to remember a role and you are trying to not look tired on stage. You have to make sure of placement, timing, the other members; it is very demanding. Some roles are more so than others. Most of us know more than one role for the show. For example, Cornish is a little more chilled than the role of Ben. I have to give more energy for Ben. For the characters that we play, there is no set way to play these characters, so I can decide to play a lazy Cornish today or super energetic Cornish.”
You all play different characters – how does this rotation work with the characters?
“I play two characters in this run. There are three women on tour and we all rotate. Two women will perform one night, and the other will get the night off. I usually rotate with the characters Cornish and Ben.”
Which is your favourite character?
“Cornish used to be my favourtie because I used to play that as my inner child; Cornish is very playful, and looks up to Ben. She just hangs out. A former Stomper, who trained me, helped me with this character, as I had problems adapting to this role initially and she said to me, ‘you know that girl that takes care of everything, pays her own bills, helps her mom – that is who Ben is’. After that advise I did the show with that in mind and so that role has been a very woman empowerment role for me. I feel very powerful when I am Ben, but I also feel like im living my best life as me when I am Cornish. On days that I am tired, I would rather do Cornish. Because I am one of the veterans in the group, I am Ben most of the time.”
Being empowered as a woman – this is a very masculine show, if we are gong to stereotype it. How has it been for you as a woman?
“It all started with the original lady who performed as Ben, her name is Fiona. She set the tone for all the women who were going to play that role. She created this persona in that when people watched the show, they were like – she is the show; the men are performing with her, they’re hanging wth her – it is not the other way around. Just with that, her setting that bar, has made it different. I don’t think it is any more physically demanding for the guys that for the women – it is as equally demanding.”
“There are some moments in the show that are uncomfortable; there are these 50 pound barrels called walkers. A lot of the women don’t like doing that role because it is very straining on the lower area. It’s your back, legs, everything. In the training process, they make everyone learn how to walk on those. That is more physically demanding than anything else in the show. We train the same way as the men. There is no difference. Fiona set that tone. There are times when all 3 women are in the show. Sarge is the main character of the show, who interacts with the audience. There have been times where women have played Sarge. Women have played every role in the show.”
“I have never played Sarge. Maybe as a goodbye, I might try it. I have played ‘Particle’, who is the mover. There was a Vegas show and I played 5 roles in that show.”
“That is the beauty of this show – it is not boring. The show is different every night. We get to choose what we wear – there is no set costume. Everyone plays their roles differently. The improv is what makes it hilarious to us because there is some stuff that you as an audience don’t hear. There is a part where we play with newspapers, we call it ‘Hot Seat’. The character, Dr Who leads it and it is all improv. It is so funny to us, we cannot not laugh. That’s the beauty. Everyone comes from so many different backgrounds; different cultures, languages…”
This is your life – you have been with this show so long. What next?
“I am recently engaged. He is super supportive. Stomp has been a huge part of my life and has opened so many doors for me. I work with two non profits; they are looking to make me production manager. I am also looking to open my own studio in Las Vegas. I have stopped Stomp for a bit in the past – I stopped for 2 years; I wanted to do other things. I worked with another dance group called Melodie; it is a body percussion group and we do lots of arts education workshops. I am always busy – Las Vegas is the capital of entertainment. I do want to have a family. I have also always wanted to give back tot the community and help those less fortunate – this comes from my mom, who was a foster mother. I want to give back somehow. I have done a couple of Cirque Du Soleil shows as well, and have supportive friends who would love to help out with the community. The connections I have mad over the years through Stomp has been amazing. My leaving stomp has never been a sad thing. I have had the best life via Stomp.
I have also always wanted to sing. My mother was an opera singer and so I grew up with it. I am feeling more comfortable singing in public. So I think my next adventure would be a singing role.”
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