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Review: Love, fear and fury in Spectrum’s ‘(Im)PULSE’

Spectrum Dance Theater’s latest production was prompted by last year’s deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, in which 49 people died.

Spectrum Dance Theater’s new evening-length work, “(Im)PULSE,” opens at fever pitch and never lets up. It’s fueled by love, fear, fury and bewilderment. Mixing dance, text, music and video projections, it’s a breakneck production that features choreographer Donald Byrd at his edgiest.

Spectrum’s artistic director was prompted to create the piece by last year’s attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 patrons died and 58 were injured. But “Im(PULSE)” doesn’t recreate those horrors onstage. Instead, it’s built around a play for seven voices by Brian Quirk, with all seven of those voices coming out of one performer: actor Craig MacArthur in a wild tour de force.

It also draws heavily on a 1991 account of a New York City gay-bashing incident by artist/activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992). Music, especially in the Wojnarowicz sequence, plays a key role, too, with a string quartet score wrapping itself note for note around the agitated cadence of the words.


Spectrum Dance Theater: ‘(Im)PULSE’

7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through July 2. Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle; $21-$42 (206-443-2222 or

Where does dance figure in this?

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It’s the rhythmic amplification of every verbal tic and explosion in the texts. Spectrum’s dancers are both lithe and brutal in the way they wield their bodies. Paired contact between them is fleeting but powerful. Paul Giarratano and Fausto Rivera share an especially affecting moment when their steps toward intimacy are knocked askew by verbal abuse directed at them, unnerving Rivera particularly.

Dancer Blair Jolly Elliot channels pure anger in her handling of Wojnarowicz’s words. As for…

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