Australian Dance Reviews

KAGE’s ‘Out of Earshot’: Language at its core

KAGE's 'Out of Earshot'. Photo by Jeff Busby.
KAGE's 'Out of Earshot'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Chunky Move, Melbourne.
June 1, 2017.

It opens quietly. Then, a few seconds later, it moves, using the most basic language of all. Touch. A drummer’s hands tap out a rhythm on a dancer’s torso. And so it begins – the most basic form of music. The pulse. The beat.

KAGE's 'Out of Earshot'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

KAGE’s ‘Out of Earshot’. Photo by Jeff Busby.

More than anything, what KAGE’s Out Of Earshot does is to dissolve layers of “language” back to their primal core, to strip off the detailed and noisy edifice of word and melody and to investigate through the mouthpiece of the body something essential about communication. However, it does this with an unusually pointed focus, in that one of the four dancers is deaf. Taking this a springboard, Earshot teases apart given notions of both sound and silence and of what those things mean to social animals whose very notion of self – of delineated I – depends upon the echo of relationship with the other.

If that all sounds rather dry and intellectual, rest assured that the work itself is electrified by an earthy and erotic force. It moves with sensual elasticity and propulsive vigour, driven by very physical choreography (lots of contact) and by the live drumming of Myele Manzanza. Indeed, at points it is even lighthearted and playful.

KAGE's 'Out of Earshot'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

KAGE’s ‘Out of Earshot’. Photo by Jeff Busby.

There was perhaps a risk that the presence of drummer Manzanza and deaf dancer Anna Seymour might jump out as token or pull focus. What Kage’s Artistic Director Kate Denborough has achieved, however, is the seamless integration of both. There is no “deaf person” sign hovering around Seymour, and Manzanza and drum kit are wonderfully blended into the very fabric of the work. Indeed, there is an enmeshment motif running throughout, most clearly in the close contact choreography and the vibrational triggers of beat, touch and light.   

Earshot is also beautifully structured. There are a couple of exquisitely timed sound/silence segues, a well-paced arc (almost narrative at points), and a simple but satisfyingly clever visual design. Coupled with the energy and commitment of the dancers – their athleticism and almost daring physical intimacy – the conceptual frame is embodied with passion, intensity, humour and, of course, a jazz-tinged spine of funky drumming that ignites the work.  

KAGE's 'Out of Earshot'. Photo by Jeff Busby.

KAGE’s ‘Out of Earshot’. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Tellingly, all the technical, directorial and performative elements coalesce with a sublime and simple conclusion. Five bodies as drums, as instruments, as makers not only of the dance but of the music itself. 

In its approachability, emotion and sensuality, Out Of Earshot stands out as a work that manages to translate well-thought ideas and good intentions into a show that delivers as both concept and spectacle. Truth be told, it’s just flat out sexy and riveting; and that’s not a bad thing, even in high concept dance. 

By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.

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