The Universal Language: It’s Rhythm, Baby

stompBlitz Magazine, January 2005

‘Think that love is the universal language? Wrong. It’s rhythm, something that’s shared by everything with a heartbeat, from birds and apes to sharks and humans.

The performers of Stomp, the long-running Broadway hit, decided to ‘discuss’ rhythm in a sort of study of humanity, and the roots and continuum of the celebration of rhythm, in the large-screen Imax format.

Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey begins in New York, and then takes us on a rhythmic world tour. The camera soars above the globe in dazzling panoramic shots then swoops down on a string of exotic locales.  We see, among others, the American Indian Dance Theatre, Kodo, the Winchester Cathedral Bell Ringers, a New York drum and bugle corps, and performers from Brazil, Botswana, South Africa, Guinea, Spain and India—where numerous elephants are important participants.

Along the way, Pulse compares the sound of running buffalo to that of a subway. We see the similarities between break-dancing New York teens and the Johannesburg ‘Gumboot’ kids, whose performance resembles (but is much older than) hip-hop. Pulse is meant to be educational and entertaining and, in the case of the bell ringers in particular, the mathematics of rhythm is clearly evident. It also shows us how humans have imitated and adapted their environments and everyday rituals into sound, rhythm and song, using everyday objects like shells, boxes and body parts.

This film is a celebration of the global beat, an exploration of sights and sounds of continents and cultures, guided by performers of the stage show Stomp. It’s an uplifting film, in that we see how rhythm—not the spoken word—is the unifying common thread of humans, and how there is a fundamental harmony that exists across time, space and disparate societies.

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Pulse has no dialogue or narration—just the language shared by all human beings. Unfortunately, the film is only 40 minutes long, and its producers focused a little too much on Africa (plus a goofy underwater scene) and omitted the Cossacks, Dervishes and Highland Sword Dancers, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

 

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