By Tracy Wang
Currently performing at the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Leo K. Theatre, ‘(IM)PULSE’ is the Spectrum Dance Theater’s 2017 season’s closing world premiere that explores the violence and trauma experienced by the LGBTQ community.
A response to the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub tragedy, ‘(IM)PULSE’ is a dance theater work that is a creation by Donald Byrd, the executive artistic director of the Spectrum Dance theater. A work that brings in dance, text, music, voice, documentary, it is a piece that allows the audiences to connect and relate easily. Set in two parts, we get a rare opportunity to be able to see and experience a work that acts as a voice of the LGBTQ community. The trauma, the violence, the aloneness, all shine through with the words, and the choreography.
Through the texts by David Wojnarowicz, we are first introduced to the tragic story of a gay who was attacked outside a bar with all the onlookers staring and not helping. With this story being repeated three times, we seem to become one of the onlookers, who watch as the story unfolds in front of our eyes. However, different from the onlookers in the story, we remain truly powerless as audiences.
The powerful dancers of the company take on multiple roles as part of the LGBTQ community as well as the outsiders. When two male dancers, acting as gay, appear on stage, a crowd of onlookers seem to take on the opinions of the onlookers in the story, and surround one of them. They seem to be influencing and educating him on the hereosexual norm of society, and he starts to resist interacting with his lover.
Then, in the second part, we dive straight into the recovery stage of a gay, played beautifully by the actor, Craig MacArthur. As we experience more and more intimate and internal thoughts of the gay in the hospital through his words and seizures, we are confronted directly with his vulnerability, strength, but most of all, his cry for acceptance and understanding from friends, families, and everyone else.
His question, ‘what’s wrong with gay?’, and his response, ‘all I want is love and my life’, cut deep into our hearts, and force us to confront the misunderstanding and prejudice we might have had. With MacArthur doing a monologue for most of the work, and with him representing everyone around him, the doctor, the nurse and his mother, his lack of support and loved ones is impossible to miss; the questions of why he is alone, and who deserves to be alone in the hospital, are raised.
When the lights are turned on near the end of his monologue, and MacArthur point to audiences and ask simple questions, such as ‘what is your favorite color?’ And ‘what is your mother’s maiden name?’, the direct connection between the LGBTQ community and the audience is set up, and this moment perfectly illustrates the idea that every human being, no matter who we choose to love, share similar experiences and thus should all be treated with respect and love.
Even though ‘(IM)PULSE’ is filled with important questions and revelations from the very beginning, the ending scene of his heartbeat slowing and finally ending serves as a final scream of this whole piece. His lonely death on a hospital bed shouts the questions of ‘why hate’ and ‘why are people ok with hate’ to all of us, and marks Byrd’s success in transforming yet another work of dance and theater into an activist for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
(IM)PULSE runs at Seattle Repertory Theater’s Leo K through July 2. For more information, visit https://spectrumdance.org/events/impulse/