Jasmine Fyffe Dance’s Pulse, a contemporary dance show set to the music of Motown, is the show filling the dance slot in this years’ edition of the Toronto Fringe’s Next Stage Theatre Festival. Motown is an enduringly popular genre of music and its soulful grooves make it a natural choice to explore in a dance show.
Pulse starts off with the company of dancers emerging from the auditorium and picking audience members out as dance partners.
The company, consisting of dancers Jonna Abrams, Bretonie Burchell, Irvin Chow, Julia Cosentino, Roney Lewis, Alyssa Petrolo, Steven Smith, Jessica Tomasone and choreographer Jasmyn Fyffe, starts things off slowly with a number choreographed to The Flamingos’ I Only Have Eyes For You. I thought the show started off tentatively and I spent the first couple of numbers trying to figure out the tone the show was trying to establish as the dancers warmed up.
Pulse finally hit its stride a few numbers in with a piece choreographed to Ben E. King’s Stand By Me; a full ensemble number where the dancers fluidly move in and out of synch with each other.
The highlights of the show for me included the number featuring the female ensemble members performing the aggressive choreography underscored by Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness and the subsequent unaccompanied number in which the three male ensemble members get to show off their powerful physicality and agility. The passionate pas de deux performed to Gladys Knight & The Pips Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye) was the emotional high point of the show.
However, I’m not sure the show really worked for me. The combination of modern dance and Motown in Pulse felt like an odd fit. Rarely did I feel like the choreography connected well with the music and I thought that the invariability of the movement vocabulary resulted in an overall sense of sameness from one number to the next.
I didn’t get a sense that the tone and direction for the piece was clearly established; while a dancer addresses the audience directly at the start of the show and encourages us to sing and dance along what’s missing throughout is a sense of joy and fun. The moments where company members are allowed to let loose and have fun are few. In the end, I thought Pulse was a promising concept but I wanted to enjoy it more than I ultimately did.
- All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets for Mainstage and Studio shows are $15 and $10 for Ante-chamber performances
- Showtimes and ticket information are available at fringetoronto.com/next-stage-festival/
Photo by Jamie Johnston.