Exuberant Galumpha Gang combines artistic disciplines to go ‘splish, splash’

Reviewed by David L. Schriber

“Splish, splash, I was takin’ a bath …” – Bobby Darin and Murray the K, 1958

“Oceans, lakes, rivers, rains, baths, showers, washes, quiet flows, puddles, pools, splashes. We love the water.” – Elise Mayer, 2011

Combining poetry, music, tumbling, acrobatics and interpretive dance, Galumpha’s fourth Galumpha Gang camp for kids brought together 37 children ages 7 to 18 for two weeks to plan, practice and perform a program of exercise, art and entertainment. Galumpha Gang 2011 presented “Water” July 22 at the Jewish Community Center in Vestal.

Galumpha Gang is a collaboration between The Discovery Center of the Southern Tier and the internationally acclaimed acrobatic troupe Galumpha, most of whose members are Binghamton University theater alumni. A Galumpha show is a unique experience you don’t forget. The grown-up version has appeared around the world and its “Velcro” routine, with dancers sticking to a Velcro wall, was featured on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Galumpha president and camp director Andy Horowitz is an artist-in-residence with the Binghamton University Theater Department. He explained to the audience at the JCC that all the camp started with was a theme: water. Everything else — the poetry, the movements, the music — were all created by the children with help of the staff and interns, plus musical director Jim Glasgow and lighting designer Howard S. Klein. The result: a collage of two dozen short scenes each with one of the children reading his or her original, free verse poetry.

Some scenes choreographed the whole ensemble swaying like ocean waves, flowing like a river or cascading like a waterfall. Others featured several children in acrobatic formations imitating animals. The formations taught the children valuable lessons in coordination, cooperation, teamwork and trust, as some involved cantilevered balance and others had people hanging upside down. Dramatic colored lighting and lively music created ever-changing moods. Special effects included stroboscopic “lightning” and conga drum “thunder.”

The poetry revealed some serious thought by some children about the many forms water takes and its importance in our lives. There’s calming water, flowing water, rushing water, stormy angry walls of flood waters. Some kids told fanciful fables of frog, octopus, cats and monsters. Some spoke to environmental concerns.

Horowitz and company catalyzed and channeled the children’s energy and enthusiasm into a delightful stage experience. It was a chance to be active and creatively playful, yet using discipline and structure to transform free play into an art form.

There were reportedly tears at the end from children sad that two exciting weeks had passed so quickly. Many were determined to make this a must-do activity next summer.

Note:  David L. Schriber is the grandfather of Galumpha Gangster Sheridan Ballard.

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