by Wendy Newton
If only the floorboards could speak.
I'm at Stompin's 21st birthday book launch waiting for Premier Giddings to arrive and someone mentions the floor. How it needs funding for repairs. I look past my boots (embarrassed that I've only just realised they're muddy and the Premier will be here any minute) to the scuffmarks, scratches, gouges, the sgraffito of dance history that leaves its legacy etched in Braille on the pine. Stories on the boards.
It's a pity they'll disappear. It's only sanding that's needed, I'm told.
Still, it's a patina of the hard slog of dance, of youthful sweat and pounding creativity, recollections in a foot-scribed text of the commitment, agonies and glories of the characters that have passed through a 21-year chronicle of a dance company that was launched with a $500 grant from Arts Tasmania.
We’re treated to a performance by half a dozen dancers with 21 on their tees. The girls gyrate like automaton dancers in a Rage video clip. There’s a clever disconnect between the fashionably-sexy formulaic moves and Foster the People’s “Pumped up Kicks”. You better run, better run, faster than my bullet. Homicidal thoughts of a troubled youth contrasted with dislocated upbeat music and moves. The expression of an era. It’s a perfect performance. An iconoclastic story in the language of Stompin. It’s reason to be. Twenty-one years skilfully condensed into a few minutes of a signature performance.
The Premier gets it; she asks for her photo to be taken with the young dancers. This is what tonight is about.
And I'm reminded of something Cormac McCarthy wrote: "Things separate from their stories have no meaning. They are only shapes. Of a certain size and colour. A certain weight. When their meaning has become lost to us they no longer have even a name. The story on the other hand can never be lost from its place in the world for it is that place."
Stompin is both place and story, a physical vernacular of dance that has its colloquial home in Dicky White's Lane, in an aeroplane hangar, in a forest, in a suburban street, in a car. In the hearts of the young dancers that it has inspired. In the heart of a community that is richer because of it.
Perhaps there's something poetic in the sanding back of 21 years of strata, the evening of footprints of dancers, choreographers, benefactors, Premiers, audiences on these boards. Of layering present on past; a palimpsest of dance, scraped clean for a new page but with the scriptio inferior remaining as a shadowy underlying text. Something old, something new…I feel better about my muddy bootprints; maybe they'll be imprinted, if only mythogeographically, as part of the codex of a dance company that has come of age and is moving into a new one.
I sneak out as Stompin's Chairman, Darren Alexander, auctions a photographic artwork by Jasper de Seymour. The auction leaps like one of the dancers in the photo. $600, $650, $850. Sarah McCormack "whoops", Emma Porteus screams, their delight in a humble unawareness of the generosity of an audience impacted by their heritage.
I slip down the stairs towards the darkened street and hear the floorboards singing.