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Galumpha's 'Human Jungle Gym' comes to Staller Center

Galumpha performs

Galumpha performs "Not Just for Kids (The Human Jungle Gym)" at the Staller Center for the Arts Main Stage. Photo Credit: DCA Productions

Even after you've seen Galumpha, it's not easy to describe. The dictionary is useless. "Galumph" is defined as "to move with a clumsy, heavy tread."

Anthropologists are more helpful. They recognize "galumphing" as the rambunctious, seemingly inexhaustible play energy of puppies, kittens and baby primates.

See for yourself in a Sunday matinee at Staller Center, part of its "Not Just for Kids" series.

"We do a lot of family shows over here," says Galumpha founder Andy Horowitz, who performs Sunday with Marlon Torres and Kate Vollrath. "But in Europe" - the ensemble has played in 50 countries on four continents - "we're often the daring late-night show."

But what is it you do?

Even the founder resorts to what others have written about Galumpha. "We're a human jungle gym, experimenting in human architecture."

He pauses. "Primarily we're dancers."

But surely it's more than that.

"Well, yes, it's very athletic," Horowitz says. "We come up with surprising ways of lifting each other - especially one person lifting the other two in ways that seem both improbable and effortless."

Another pause. "With humor and a postmodern choreographic style," he adds. "Without pigeonholing ourselves, we just build it. A performer should tell a story, believe in that story and perform it with great intensity, integrity and honesty.

"Most of it we just make up."

INSPIRED BY AWFULNESS

What drove Horowitz to form Galumpha in 1987? The artist-in-residence of Binghamton University's theater department says, "There's nothing so profoundly inspiring as being trapped in a theater seeing a bad show. My mind is always racing, 'If only they did this or tried that.' " Galumpha has come up with such imaginative pieces as "Velcro" - you never thought a simple sight gag could be so repetitively funny - as seen on "Letterman," and three-way dance contortions set to the Czech band Jablkon, whose singer sounds like Tom Waits. Besides theater degrees, Horowitz brings show-biz and life experience to his Galumpha inspirations. He's acted in kung-fu movies, worked as a Wild West stunt rider and served as court interpreter for Chinese-speaking defendants in Binghamton, where he lives with his wife and their two children.

FOR PROFIT

"The only way we make money is by doing a show and getting paid," Horowitz says. "In that respect, we're like a rock band." Although Galumpha cites its stage requirements in each performance agreement, sometimes there are venue surprises. "Once we showed up to find a bare floor with splinters sticking straight up. We could've canceled, but then we'd never play there again," Horowitz recalls. "So I went out and bought some cheap linoleum. Everybody was happy."

The show must go on.

WHAT: Galumpha performs "The Human Jungle Gym," a one-hour "Not Just for Kids" show recommended for ages 7 and up

WHEN | WHERE: 4 p.m. Sunday at Staller Center, Stony Brook University

INFO: $12; stallercenter .com, 631-632-2787

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