April 18, 2003

Rising Pulse: Journey through the heartbeats of the world

By: Mariana Martinez

As an early night falls over Tijuana I go into the Omnimax Theater at the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT). Drums and dancers fill the convex walls at the entrance. The people there can’t help but move their feet or shoulders. Some have a rhythm, some don’t, but we all have an urge to move.

We go in, still moving rhythmically through the long stairwell.

Suddenly the face of a man in the huge screen meets us.

No talk, just dance and music everywhere: Clap your hands, bounce a ball, move your tongue around or hit a water filled bottle. Go underwater, because bubbles make sound, and share the noise with your neighbor.

The halls of the CECUT were alive with dance and music this past weekend.

Pulse is the heartbeat of percussion all around the globe, from the Kodo drummers of Japan to the Timbalada of Brazil, even bell ringers from the Winchester Cathedral and the NYC Hip Hop dancers. The film goes back and forth from ancient cultures like the Moremongolo Tswana Traditional Dancers to the Jersey Surf Drum & Bugle Corps, showing astonishing similarities between modern beats and ancient rhythms as humans go in search of the universal language of music.

Recently Called “High-voltage virtuosity,” (ABC and Teaser) by the New Yorker, STOMP was created in Brighton (UK) back in the summer of 1991. It is a unique mixture of percussion, movement and visual comedy made by people from all sorts of musical and dance performance backgrounds.

Steve McNicholas is one of the creators of STOMP. Born in Yorkshire (UK) he had previously worked and an actor/singer/musician/writer with many theatrical and musical groups. He worked with Cliff Hanger, Convent Garden Community theatre and Pookiesanckburger, and even worked on TV with the famous “Mr. Bean”.

For the creation of STOMP he joined the self-taught percussionist, also from Brighton, Luke Cresswell whose experience include work as a drummer with Beasts International, Bette Midler, Elvis Costello and Bryan Ferry. He has directed, along with Steve McNicholas several award-winning short films and commercials based on STOMP and composed the soundtrack of the Showtime movie Riot. They both share Emmy and Oscar nominations for their work in Brooms and STOMP Out loud.

As they say on their web site “STOMP is only the sum of its parts: we look for each performer to bring something unique to the show, whether it’s percussive skills, movement skills, good comic timing or just plain old charisma. Obviously everyone has to drum: whether they have to learn drumming skills in rehearsal or whether they are already working musicians. Ultimately, though, each performer has to be prepared to bring out some aspect of his/her personality to create a character that lives and breathes in the Stomp world, where rhythm is the only language.”

Pulse: a STOMP odyssey is their first film in Omnimax format and meant a greater challenge, not just for the directors Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell but for the whole group. For this film they join efforts with Leve Prod., Stern Productions and Giant Screen Films who is also the distributor.

Pulse is different from previous STOMP movies, not just because of the new, more impressive format, but also because this time they include performances from other dance groups and performance artists. Showing a wide range of styles and motivations: some play music for fun, religion, keeping a tradition alive, helping boys and girls mingle or even as a way to achieve world peace.

The film is kept together by relating those performances with the ever changing New York City street scene. A scene, so diverse in its own that easily reminds us of the wide range of human races, religions and emotions we face. But it also shows the similarities that make us human, one and all.

As if music and dance magically captured by masterful photography (thanks to Christopher Landenberg and James Neirhouse) wasn’t enough, Pulse also shows the performances against colorful and dramatic landscape, as different as the performances throughout the film.

Towards the end of this forty minute trip, some of the characters in each performance are joined in a “mixed” music sample, mainly performed by various voice and mouth sounds.

The film is like a very fast horse ride that keeps your heart pumping for more.

As I walk out, I hear the distant beat of the drums, still playing in the hallway and I promise myself I’ll get a drum, and play it.

Pulse: a STOMP odyssey will be playing at CECUT, Monday to Friday 3:00, 5:00, 7:00 and 9:00 pm Sat and Sunday 11:00 am and same as weekdays.

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