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Finishing the ArtSparks series at Carrboro's ArtsCenter, New-York-based comedy dance troupe Galumpha presented a delightful evening of inventive performing that entertained children and adults alike. Established in 2002, the group was cofounded by Andy Horowitz and Greg O'Brien. Galumpha visits schools across the country, including four schools in Chapel Hill and Chatham County last week. Horowitz is one of the performers, and was joined by BriAnna Barnett and Gil Young Choi in 2015. (Cast bios can be seen on their website.)
Although marketed towards families with children, who attended in abundance, Galumpha's performance accessed the inner child in everyone! From funky dancing utilizing acrobatic body-stacking, to blatant satire of classic tap dancing, their show was as varied as it gets. Each performer utilized his or her own style and facial expressions to create a character that developed throughout the ninety-minute show. Choi, for example, was wondrous and curious, evolving into a jokester that tried to mess with the others. Barnett played more of a fourth-wall breaker, giving wide eyes and shrugs to the audience while the men got really invested in the numbers.
The props were equally varied and pushed humor to its limits; not only did the performers change into tap shoes, but the shoes featured extra extensions on the heels to allow the dancers to strike metal pie plates they had strapped onto their backsides, creating a Stomp-type routine. As if it weren't enough to watch grown adults kick their own rear ends, the pie plates had faces painted on them.
Each number was packed with striking poses, unusual pathways across the stage, and surprising twists and turns, eliciting giggles and gasps throughout. As if that weren't enough, the caliber of the dance and acrobatic movements was top-notch. All three performers showed so much trust and confidence in each other, even when creating the most complex variations of the human pyramid. They are obviously highly trained professionals, but what shone through the most was their playfulness within the art form.
There were, naturally, moments of forced comedy, like the inevitably gratuitous audience participation, but even that was entertaining. The only elements that took away from the performance were a few lighting cues that didn't seem to line up. Howard S. Klein's light design was, as a whole, great, as was the music which included Rachmaninoff and Czech band Jablkon. In fact, lighting and sound became characters that interacted with the performers, leading the plots along and creating even more humor and drama.
It's difficult to categorize Galumpha, but a number towards the middle of the show described the name, which comes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass as a nonsense verb, but is now a part of the English dictionary and means to prance in a self-satisfied, if clumsy, manner. Galumpha, the proper-noun-version, is a troupe of confident, unapologetically silly, dancers. Several of the numbers followed this format: the dancers would come out under dramatic lighting and soberly get into position. Classical music would play, the trio would begin a modern dance routine, perhaps breathing or chanting in rhythm with the music. Inevitably, some endearing nonsense would creep into the show, taking everyone by surprise: a costume change with a flash of color, an abrupt music change that changed the mood entirely, unusual props, or, my personal favorite, a parachute to play under, which then evolved into a "three kids in a trench coat" gag!
Galumpha created surprises everywhere, and the only way to fully understand and appreciate the complex yet childish mix of entertaining dance-comedy is to experience it. Galumpha finishes its national tour this month before beginning Galumpha Gang 2018, a summer camp for children ages 7-13 back in New York.