Bust a ‘Boom’

Modesta Zapata

The orange glow that envelopes the stage separates Northwestern University’s dance, drum and rhythm ensemble, Boomshaka, from the rest of the auditorium. Gathered in a circle, the cast listens to the directors about plans for the night’s rehearsal. They’re speaking in a language that’s difficult to understand (at least to an outsider). It’s a language of beats and counts, head-nodding and hand gestures, but one that they all seem to understand.

“No. It needs to be more like, boom, boom, tap! Boom, boom, tap!”

Boomshaka’s eighth annual spring show, Behind the Groove, features several exciting elements, says producer Julie Kaplan, a Communication senior.

“We’re back on campus in McCormick Auditorium, last year we were off campus,” Kaplan says. “It’s also exciting because (this year’s show) is a great opportunity for us to expand what we do.”

Previous spring shows have been about making the members “performers on stage without the abundance of technology that Boomshaka had two years ago,” Communication junior Brett Schneider says.

But this year they’re taking a different route.

“This year it’s Behind the Groove and we’re trying to say, ‘What else can Boomshaka do?’ We know we can dance, we know we can drum, so what different ways can we embody rhythm?” Kaplan says.

As the members scatter around the stage preparing for rehearsal, the auditorium is bursting with sounds of drums, stomps, and taps. The lights blink hues of hot pink and turquoise as the cast moves the trash cans to their positions. On stage, the directors of this year’s show, Kevin Brown (Communication junior), Stephanie Paul (Communication senior), and Rati Gupta (Weinberg senior) discuss what needs to be done for the night.

“Each year we kind of reinvent exactly what type of group we are and what type of show we put on,” says Schneider.

But once the trash cans have been placed and the members abandon the stage in preparation for their first run of the night, the confusion dissolves with the stage lights. The trash cans are no longer random. The performers’ dancing shadows and illuminated blue bodies no longer seem out of place. When the lights turn on, illustrating through color what the rhythm of the drums is describing through sound, their bodies, moving in a tribal fashion, are bathed by the modern colors of the spotlights above.

Communication junior Tarah Ortiz describes the experience, saying Boomshaka’s show goes beyond its raw elements.

“It’s not like you’re going to come and see drumming and dancing and that’s all,” Ortiz says. “We try to figure out what else we can do based on rhythm and performance.”

Each stomp, each crash of the trash can works together to produce a smooth composition of sound that is intensified by the visually stimulating experience they deliver.

“This year we really tried to push our boundaries and explore every corner we could as a group, as performers, and as musicians,” Schneider says.

Behind the Groove is playing at McCormick Auditorium on Thurs., May 11, at 8 p.m. and Fri., May 12, and Sat., May 13, at 8 and 11 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and are available at the Norris Box Office.

Medill sophomore Modesta Zapata is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected]