Thursday, May 29, 2003

Beat poetry

Movie: Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey

Posted on Thu, May 29, 2003 at 4:00 AM

****
Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey
Length: 40 minutes
Studio: Giant Screen Films
Release Date: 2003-05-29
Director: Steve McNicholas
WorkNameSort: Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey
Our Rating: 4.00

The producers and performers of the rhythm-based, Off Broadway-smash STOMP troupe have taken a fascinating step toward acknowledging their influences by creating a globe-trotting IMAX journey called "Pulse: A STOMP Odyssey."

The genius of the film is the connection it makes between STOMP's industrial rhythms and global, heartbeat-based tempos, such as the sounds of African dancers, Japanese kodo drummers and Spanish flamenco musicians.

In one compelling scene, a troupe member takes a turn at the thigh-slapping art of hambone, followed by a scene of South African gumboot dancers, stomping and slapping without peer. Another shows how the human-beatbox noises made by STOMP star Keith "Wild Child" Middleton engage tabla player Shafaatullah Khan to counter with his rapid-fire spoken syllables called bols, used for teaching hand-drumming in Indian music.

The least impressive performers are the STOMPers themselves. On a stage or the big screen, the entertainers create sounds with their feet, bodies and objects like garbage cans and soda bottles. But the switch from hip-hop dancing on a New York City rooftop to the blood-stirring South African Moremogolo Tswana Traditional Dancers, with shell shakers rattling on their ankles, opens eyes as to where the world's rhythms came from -- and who does them better.

The mind-numbingly enormous screen lends itself to spectacle. Close your eyes as the camera swoops down over Red Rock Canyon to light on Native American dancers in a giant stone circle. And the image, and sound, of 200 top-hat-wearing Timbalada drummers in the slums of Brazil, vibrant and life-affirming amid the intense poverty, sent a chill up my spine.

There are flaws in the film and the presentation: It's impossible to show a flat vista on a giant curved dome, and the distortions are a bit distracting at times. Also, the underwater sequence is just plain bizarre. But presented on the nine-story Dr. Phillips CineDome at the Orlando Science Center, the film is impressive for the sights and sounds of the wondrous beats the world has to offer.

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