Galumphing back: Acrobatic dance company brings act for all ages to Amp stage tonight


Coined by author Lewis Carroll in Through the Looking-Glass, the word “galumph” is a verb that means “to move with a clumsy, heavy tread.”

In 2001, the term also became the official name for an acrobatic troupe.

Members of the company, who had been searching in vain for a group name, looked to a part of their act called the “Galumpha,” in which one member carries the two others across the stage, almost like a camel. The whimsical name, derived from Carroll’s definition, stuck. Galumpha was born.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight, in the Amphitheater, Galumpha will perform as the first installment of this season’s Family Entertainment Series.

The name became a “natural choice” for the group, according to founding member Andy Horowitz.

The three-person show, consisting of Emiko Okamoto, William Matos and Horowitz, combines dance choreography with acrobatic movement. Despite the extreme physical difficulty of Galumpha’s work, Horowitz calls the group “perfectionists about choreography” who strive to make strenuous moves seem effortless.

“We jump and catch each other often on each other’s feet. Our lifts move and turn and yet they typically don’t fall down,” Horowitz said. “We’re telling a story; it’s abstract. But I like to get onstage and lead the audience through an experience and tell that story through its beginning, middle and end, and then release the audience to walk away thinking about it.”

Galumpha has told this story in 44 states, almost every province of Canada and throughout Western Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East — totaling more than 40 countries in all.
Still, their formula for impressing the audience with the twists and turns of their bodies remains remarkably similar for each audience.

“We perform for many audiences and we are not, by any means, slated as a children’s act,” Horowitz said. “What we do might equally be seen to a Berlin, Germany, presenter as appropriate for a 10 o’clock nightclub show where there won’t be a child there. Yet, regardless of whether we’re performing for adults, children or a mix of both, we always do the exact same thing physically.

“We feel, and have in fact learned conclusively, that if children like it, grown-ups like it, and if grown-ups like it, children like it,” Horowitz continued. “There’s nothing in the show that is inappropriate for kids per se, nor is there anything that’s too saccharine or too unsophisticated to satisfy an adult audience as well.”

This blend of universality is one of the key factors of import to Vice President and Director of Programming Marty Merkley when coordinating “quality family entertainment” for FES.

“There has to be lots of things going on for kids who are fascinated by the colors and the sounds and the movement and then for adults on a higher level than just the visual stimulation,” Merkley said. The colorful, energetic performance that Galumpha brings to the stage the offers vivacious entertainment that fits the bill.

But the group’s confidence in their wide appeal does not keep them from shifting their program occasionally. By switching in dancers from a rotating company and choreographing movements from a roster of practiced material, Galumpha keeps an audience on its toes.

“Like a rock band, showing up for a gig and deciding what numbers are going to make the ideal program for a given venue, that’s what we do,” Horowitz said.

Horowitz said Galumpha’s performance at Chautauqua will combine old and new material, but as usual, will incorporate choreographed movements sure to intrigue all, young and old.