The name Mayumana - pronounced my-YOO-mah-nah derives its name from the Hebrew word meaning "skill." After seeing the dance troupe's new show "BE," the gibberish quality of the name feels appropriate, given that this multinational company has a way of communicating that's independent of any spoken language.
Founded in Tel Aviv in 1996 by Eylon Nuphar and Boaz Berman, Mayumana has toured the world but is just now making its U.S. debut. Its performers hail from places as diverse as Israel, Spain, Switzerland and Ivory Coast. Like "Stomp," "BE" is a series of routines combining dance and percussion. There's one with funny-looking trash cans, one where they make noises into long tubes, one that I call "nuns with tennis-ball heads," and so on.
Details help create an abstract setting and atmosphere, although there is no plot. In my interpretation, a bunch of 20-something percussionists with zero body fat have rented a fancy dance club for a long vacation. They wear skimpy clothes, go to the beach, play guitar, dust the paintings and smoke a hookah, but mainly they dance around and pound on anything they can find. Familiar conventions include "the funny guy" - an impish wrench in the machine - and an audience-participation portion. Those sitting in certain seats are pretty much forced to participate, but at least you don't have to go onstage.
The routines tend to be both rigid and playful; the company at times evokes a band of attention-hungry robot children. A particularly impressive section involves passing glow-in-the-dark balls, and an amusing routine entails tap-dancing in flippers. The best features one of the performers playing a drum solo on his two friends' bald heads.
Of course, if you have seen "Stomp," you may not feel as if you are seeing anything revolutionary, and some of the routines are less impressive. The belly-dancing bit looks about like what can be seen nightly at any number of Middle Eastern restaurants. The portion before the encore, a chaotic medley of routines we've already seen, includes ... well, routines we've already seen.
But such faults are mostly forgotten as the performers endear themselves to us with energy, control and passion. A telling moment comes early on, when a group is standing in a semicircle banging on small, white boxes. One of the guys drops his box, and his friends stare at him. He steps forward, as if about to explain himself, but instead starts speaking in sound effects, and eventually begins twisting and gyrating his whole body. The "speech" perfectly demonstrates an age-old truth that dancers and musicians often repeat in interviews: "This is how I express myself. This is how I simply 'be.'"