To be successful, members of a movement improvisation group should be quick-witted as well as quick-footed, playing off each other's ideas, picking up cues, turning mistakes into moments of inspiration. Although Impulse, a Maryland-based company, managed several moments of inspired madness this weekend at All Souls' Church, on the whole its performance lacked the emotional spontaneity and kinetic energy its name implies.
The 12 members of Impulse solved problems put to them on the spot by a group leader, with sound effects provided by the Avant-Garde Folk Band. Some of these problems are straight forward ("Using the wall, back off"), others more whimsical ("Tops and Bottoms"). Often it seems that these instructions are used only as a starting point, being forgotten or ignored as the performance progresses.
One problem that the group has not solved, and which was particularly bothersome, is its lack of training. Its movement vocabulary is very limited -- mostly walking, running and falling -- and few people had enough control over the bodies to sustain balances or to provide the support their colleagues needed. Hands were stepped on, falling bodies not caught.
Perhaps because of this limited vocabulary, Impulse leans heavily on facial expression for its humor. A staring match between Tee McDonald and Vicki Goodman, although it has little to do with its "problem" of "Tops and Bottoms," was one of the most enjoyable moments of the evening.