Back in the 1920s, Martha Graham's dance troupe toured the world, bringing ethnic dances of all kinds to dozens of countries.
But there was a problem, recalls Portlander Keith Martin, who was Graham's accompanist in later years: Every country the group danced in, it found that the locals did their particular dance better than the troupe.
That story is brought to mind watching the latest Imax film, 'Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey,' playing at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry through February.
'Stomp' creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas had a $5 million budget to examine the sources of their inspiration close-up. They took charismatic 'Stomp' dancer Keith Middleton along on their travels for continuity purposes.
The result is proof of the old adage: Look to the source. Assisted by amazing big-screen techniques and aerial photography, viewers get a whirlwind tour of the globe illuminated by fantastic dance troupes on their home turf.
Kalahari bushmen in Botswana have all the verve of a Broadway chorus; serious-looking Kodo drummers from Japan bang drums as big as Volkswagens; and the incredible Bayeza Cultural Dancers, miners from Johannesburg, South Africa, dance in coveralls, hardhats and Wellington boots. Flamenco dancer Eva Yerbabuena is captured on the roof of a building in Granada, Spain, undoubtedly dislodging the ceiling plaster with her staccato footwork.
There are even a couple of parades: a solemn religious one from Kerula, India, with curved horns and gold-plated elephants, and a carefree, happy carouse in Salvador, Brazil, with painted drummers in yellow Dr. Seuss hats.
The show runs 40 minutes but seems a lot shorter, evidence of the hypnotic power of rhythm. It's all accomplished without a coherent line of dialogue. Once again, actions speak louder than words.