Review: Impulse 2011 (School of the Toronto Dance Theatre)

Trains make a particular thunder.

When it was so vividly reproduced at the start of Impulse, which ran from early to mid-December, I trembled a bit.

Like the audio, the movements on the cosmically large performance space of the Winchester Street Theatre, were not exactly soothing.

Or at least, it seemed, not done to please.

Before long, a recording of colour commentary on a NASCAR race kicks in as the audio.

Titled Studio Roadmovie, the first of five choreographed works in Impulse, performed by students from the School of the Toronto Dance Theatre, it offered moments that, for me, eluded easy-to-articulate meaning.

I felt every moment of it though, which is exactly the visceral connection I love about watching dance.

To offer another example, at one point in Studio Roadmovie we hear voices hollering that echo back.

At one level – cerebral – what I was hearing and seeing didn’t really help me. I came no closer to figuring out the umbrella concept of the work.

But it felt coherent. And the choice to have hollers and echoes just felt right. It added poignancy.

Studio Roadmovie, choreographed by Marc Boivin, featured music by Christian Calon and Chantal Dumas.

I intercepted whispers that the work following, titled The Trilogy of Sable/Sand by choreographer Serge Bennathan, featured students in their second year.

The Trilogy of Sable/Sand is set to a score split between a section of African percussion instruments, including the kalimba, and a saxophone.

The music is credited to Ahmed Hassan.

Like other works that evening, The Trilogy of Sable/Sand did not offer – in my untutored observations – an easy to follow narrative or a concept, as much as emotion.

For The Trilogy of Sable/Sand, I picked up on a sensual tenor to the work.

An exotic tone also resonated.

Partly, this is because of the audio choice – at least for me, I had never heard traditional instruments accompanied by a saxophone – and partly because of costume. Performers are in subdued, desert tones, bringing to my mind the dunes of the Sahara.

Three works followed intermission: don’t never by choreographer Heidi Strauss; Déjà vu by Julie Sasso; and The Unbinding of Architecture by Roger Sinha.

Ms. Sasso’s work at Momentum earlier this year, absolutely delighted me. So I had big expectations.

They were amply met.

Déjà vu features, amongst other sequences, a circle spinning inside a circle, spinning inside a circle. The effect is enthralling, like watching a human zoetrope.

But musically, none of the last three stood out quite as much as Studio Roadmovie and The Trilogy of Sable/Sand.

When I noticed Terry Riley’s name credited as one of three contributors to music in The Unbinding of Architecture, I got pretty excited. But the score just didn’t do it for me.

Through and through though, everything from the lighting, by Gabriel Cropley, to the costumes by Jennifer Dallas, to the razor sharp stage management by A.J. Morra, was top notch.

Impulse is a show I’d very strongly recommend seeing when it makes its perennial return, around this time next year.



Impulse played at the Winchester Street Theatre (80 Winchester Street)
– Performances were on December 1st through 3rd at 8:00 PM, and December 8th through 10th at 8:00PM

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