Musical could be just what the doctor ordered

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2005, 12:00am

GOING TO SEE Stomp may prove to be more than just a fun night at the theatre; it may be good for your health. With its focus on percussion and its interactive features - at certain points, audience members are free to join in the clapping, stomping and beating - the musical may serve as a healthy stress release for spectators.

Drumming, and group drumming in particular, has been found to have emotional and biological benefits. One research project discovered that a specific group drumming approach significantly increased the disease-fighting activity of white blood cells.

According to other research, 15 minutes of drumming equates to roughly 15 minutes of cardio activity, such as riding a bike, said Andrea Chan, a registered music therapist and chairman of the Hong Kong Music Therapy Association.

Health Rhythms, a division of drum manufacturers Remo, is at the forefront of efforts dedicated to proving the biological benefits of drumming. The group travels the world running workshops and community drum circles, and was recently in Hong Kong to spread the beat.

Ms Chan, who specialises in early training programmes for special-needs children at Watchdog Early Learning and Development Centre, attended the workshop training and has since used some of the drumming techniques in her classroom. She said the results were amazing.

'The kids get very excited. It gives them an outlet to express their excitement and release their stress. Drums are very expressive and so user-friendly. The techniques can be a great stress release for everyone.'

Janice Yuen, programme director of elderly care at Christian Family Service Centre and another participant of the Health Rhythms workshop, said she witnessed some of her elderly patients practically transform before her eyes when they took part in a community drum circle.

'At first they were quiet and passive, but then they laughed out loud and opened themselves up,' she said.

While the audience at Stomp will not have drums in their hands, simply taking part in a powerful and communal rhythmic experience may be just what the doctor ordered for harried Hongkongers.

By becoming part of the music, Stomp can be a great release for the audience. James Cundall, chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, said: 'As a producer, what I love about Stomp is that it makes the audience happy - they always come out uplifted.'