Dance and Music transcend in Pierre Geagea’s “Mother Tongue”

Nélida Nassar  07.23.2014

Pierre Geagea hit the stage like a one-man tornado. In Mother Tongue Geagea who started dancing at the age of 12 takes us on a journey where his vocabulary of hand signs and gestures meets supple, graceful or invented body movements. A sparse staging of screen, chair, table and black curtains constitute the décor. To the left of the stage contemporary experimental musicians Sharif Sehnaoui (Irtijal) and Tony Elieh (co-founder of Scrambled Eggs) accompanied the dancer on electric guitars.

Geagea recounts his autobiography with precision and unmannered execution of movement and sign language in the first tableau through a standing screen. He recalls his muteness and deafness, the different struggles he faces to belong, communicate, be
heard and understood, decipher a rubik cube in the process. The eloquent narration is followed with a dance that becomes embodiment of frenzy. His tornado of a body smashes through bruising risky moves, or, no less unsettlingly, communicating a raw and rebellious vulnerability.

Geagea has more awareness of his movements and his surroundings. He learns the choreography first – what the tempo is in his body. Once he internalizes the rhythms, it’s in his muscle memory, he’s able to let that go and experience the music. He just dances, and any sound he could hear just carries him off into this other world of his imagination. If the sound waves of the music soar, he soars up into the air, like a bird. If the music is wild, he spans round like a cyclone.

Geagea cannot hear the top notes, but the electrical guitar doesn’t focus on upper ranges but lower ones, so he gets a good sense of phrasing and tempo. The guitars and bass tone are influenced by a number of factors amongst which are wood, hardware, type of pickups and their placement along the scale. The wood reverberates and sends back to the strings that energy intact to be translated into sound. The instrument’s tone, the strings vibration that sustains purity and the sound the wood produces are all the essential elements for Geagea’s hearing. To this Sehnaoui adds his own creative brand of Chinese sticks cadence, resulting in a most significant collaboration between musicians and dancer.

Music is more than just rhythm and melody. The vibrations, visual effects, emotional import, and, yes, the electronic music itself that Sehnaoui and Elieh perform superbly are all part of how Geagea’s enjoy the music experience and transmits it through dance to his spectator. When performing to live music, Geagea also looked at the musicians to see how they tap their feet or bob their heads. Dance is like sign language. Its grammar is never perfect but somehow its poetry is, because people are able to feel something.

With contemporary dance, such as Merce Cunningham, musicality is not taught as something you listen to as much as it is something you do with your dancing. So how Geagea does it? How does he manage to dance? The answer is complex. Geagea uses the tiny threads of residual hearing he has to hear the lowest notes in music – low notes that he says he “treasures very much.” He has a small amount of hearing that he utilizes to the maximum. He also senses music through vibrations that are emotions – much the same vibrations as a hearing person will sense in a loud concert.

If the choreography signed by the dancer and Daniel Ballabane didn’t follow the conventional rules of narrative and musical form, at times the unlikely chemistry
between music and dance was funny, anarchic and oddly moving. Geagea closes his fifty-five minutes performance by wrapping himself around two black hanging curtains and screams his frustration with full lungs dancing around to appear in a protective, lyrical embryo position.

It may be difficult for people who are not deaf fully to comprehend how Geagea experiences the emotional power of the music he dances to. But however he does it, the proof of his ability is in his success. Geagea passion for dance will never fade it is in his blood and his natural way of communication. Nowadays he is determined to encourage more deaf people to get into dance. Do not miss his empowering and upcoming performances enhanced by Sehnaoui and Elieh’s deconstructed live music.

Concept and Choreography: Pierre Geagea
Live Music: Sharif Sehnaoui & Tony Elieh
Direction: Nadim Deaibes
Choreography Assistant: Daniel BalabaneLight Designer: Rayan Nihawi
Assistant Director: Sara Maurice
Stage Manager: Tamara Badreddine
Video Direction: Jade Tannous
Graphics: Nader Tfayli

Monnot Theatre, Ashrafieh

2 thoughts on “Dance and Music transcend in Pierre Geagea’s “Mother Tongue”

  1. The article conveys the urgency with which dancer Geagea moves around on stage. Very touching indeed. Will follow up on his news. Thank you.

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