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  • Chris O'Rourke

Galway International Arts Festival 2023: The Pulse

The Pulse. Image Darcy Grant


There’s no denying the sheer scale of The Pulse, presented by Gravity & Other Myths. Endless bodies materialising from backstage, more spilling onstage from the auditorium. Moving like a well drilled, High School Brass Band executing walking patterns. Exercises where you move around making sure to avoid bumping into someone. Soon, two distinct groups emerge. The band in black lined up at the back being The Orfeó Català all female choir from Barcelona. Conducted by superb soloist Buia Reixach. The cream coloured remainder the acrobats. Sporting the kind of toned, sculpted musculature you promise you’ll achieve once you eventually renew your gym membership. For seventy minutes much of what follows is impressive. If not always impressive enough, or enough of the time. The Australian company’s acrobatics showing less the innovation of a Cirque de Soleil or the excitement of a Loosysmokes. The experience more akin to watching cheerleading routines, with contorted dancing, executed to accompaniment from The Hilliard Ensemble. With lots of moody lights.

Whilst floor routines and cheerleading towers often prove spectacular, they soon wear out their welcome for becoming repetitive. The whole stepped less in spectacle so much as the crafty showmanship of a street performer. Long lead ups punctured by visual flourishes followed, eventually, by a momentary, big-ish finish. In between, lots of walking and movement patterns aspiring towards choreography and rarely getting there. Rinse and repeat, with mostly modest variations, till it all comes home with some upbeat singing and downbeat acrobatics. A flash of organised chaos as ropes are strung across the stage might raise hopes momentarily, but this also flatters to deceive. No aerial feats to be had here. Just something else to hang a broody drizzle of lights on. Geoff Cobham's lighting creating most of the tension, like a visual drum roll. Assisted by composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix's suspenseful score, the choir’s highly impressive singing, and the occasional sputtering of dry ice.

The Pulse. Image Darcy Grant

If The Pulse talks big about human connectedness, visually it walks a much smaller walk. Directed by Darcy Grant, The Pulse doesn’t take acrobatics to the next level so much as cheerleading. Leaving you more likely to wonder where were the pom-poms rather than the trapeze nets? Granted, it’s cheerleading ramped up to the nth degree, and moments like Reixach’s divine Ennio Morricone styled dirge, or a body clambering across a staircase of bodies, or flung onto shoulders, will certainly catch your breath. But they rarely take your breath away. Still, there’s something awe inspiring seeing bodies push limits of strength, courage and flexibility. And the exacting precision with which The Pulse brings it all together is, indeed, mind blowing.

The Pulse, by Gravity & Other Myths, runs at Galway International Arts Festival until July 22.

For more information visit Galway International Arts Festival

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