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Jan 9, 2015

'Stomp' bangs its way into Greenville

January 9, 2015

LEENA DBOUK [email protected] Thursday, January 8, 2015 at 3:15 a.m.

Despite typically being shoved to the back of the stage, drummers play a pivotal role in creating a band's sound by maintaining tempo and energy.

Adding two percussionists to any band or orchestra is an even more difficult task because the drummers must rely solely on beats per measure rather than keeping their own time.

So, for the performers of “Stomp” not to miss a single beat during their show is a feat that takes a few weeks of rigorous training and tough skin.

“One of the girls in our current show — she came from the TV reality series 'So You Think You Can Dance' — auditioned to fill in a performance spot at the last minute. She only had a few weeks to learn the music and choreograph but she did it and rocked it,” said Cammie Griffin, one of the veteran performers of the show “Stomp.”

“Most of us have six to eight weeks to learn the choreography; clearly I work with a group of talented individuals.”

“Stomp,” which will be performed at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Main St., Greenville, features accomplished musicians and performers transforming everyday items into musical objects.

Griffin grew up dancing. Between jazz, ballet, tap and African styles, she dedicated herself to rhythm.

“I went to college in Columbia, but I had no interest in pursuing dance. In fact, I majored in chemistry and then went on to pharmacy,” she explained.

After college, Griffin went back home to Springfield, Mass., and got a job as a pharmacist.

“My brother, who had moved to Las Vegas, called me up and asked why I wasn't dancing,” Griffin recalled. “He said there were a lot of dancing opportunities down where he was but I flat out rejected the notion because I didn't want to be a show girl.”

After being assured by her brother that there were different types of dance opportunities other than being a Las Vegas show girl, Griffin took a week's vacation and visited him.

“I randomly decided to try out for 'Stomp,'” she said. “I really didn't think I was going to make it, so I just went up there without a head shot or resume and danced.

“I got a call back and auditioned again. The people said they'd get back in touch with me.”

Not thinking she'd get any callback, Griffin returned home to New England, bought a car and rented a new apartment.

“A week later, I got the call back with an offer to join 'Stomp,'” she said. “I thought I'd be joining the New York company and was shocked to learn that they wanted me to move out west to be in an inaugural 'Stomp' company for Las Vegas.”

“Stomp” was her first dance audition as an adult and what was supposed to be just a two-year contract turned into eight years of dedication to the show. Griffin hasn't regretted a single minute of it.

“'Stomp' is an exploration through sound,” Griffin said. “We use everyday objects to create music, and, for me, it shows everyone that there is music and life in everything.

“All our performances are live, so what you see is what you hear; we have no pre-recorded tracks playing in the background.”

She went on to explain that 75 percent of the show is choreographed and the rest is improvisation. Performers are encouraged to create their own style.

“We don't have any set costume,” she said. “We go out and buy our own clothes and style them the way we want. If you see a performer dance on stage, that's a part of their separate character that they've created.

“We're given a lot of freedom, which is great because every show is different from the last. Seeing 'Stomp' more than once is a must; it's a new show every time.”

There are new numbers in this season's performance. Griffin highlighted one called “Frogs,” in which cast members take pipes from the United Kingdom that sound like croaks when banged against other materials.

Another highlighted number is titled “Donuts.”

“We take these huge tractor tires and beat against the rubber to create different sounds, which sounds odd but it's really cool when you hear it in person,” Griffin said.

“Stomp,” she assured, is for everyone.

“I love that we can take everyday objects and turn them into instruments to create a beat,” Griffin said. “Everyone moves with a beat; rhythm is a universal language that all people can relate to.

“And, for me, life becomes a lot more interesting when you can make your own soundtrack.”