“About Strange Lands and People” is a dance-theater production about the intersection of dance with sign language. Short and easily understandable sign language dialogues, repeated often, transform and mutate into a journey through the vicissitudes of human communication. The phrase begins in the hands, new intonations and subtexts begin to sprout up, the rest of the body joins in. The performers get uncomfortably closer and closer, emotions start to rise, understanding turns into anger, then to desire, and finally into the emptiness which is left when everything has already been said and yet needs to be said one more time.


For connoisseurs of movement, there are some remarkable qualities to be observed among speakers of sign language. The manual dexterity is often breathtaking. And even without choreographic manipulation, much signing often has an expressiveness which rivals the achievements of great Tanztheater. It is movement which is totally expressive — a choreographer’s dream — and yet to anyone not familiar with the language, it is highly opaque and illegible — also a choreographer’s dream. It is all the more surprising that other dance companies have spent so little time investigating this movement form. “About Strange Lands and People” is thus a journey of exploration to an unknown continent….


Our rehearsals began by asking the following basic questions: How do gestures function as a form of communication? What value does sign language have when it is freed from the conventional role it plays in the deaf community and becomes available for all sorts of playful choreographic manipulations? How can dancers’ talents for full-bodied physical expression be used to enrich or transform the practice of communicating with gestures?


Bit by bit, new areas of inquiry opened up. Would it possible to train a dog using sign language? What sort of signs would a sleeping person make in her dreams? How could two people communicate with signs in the midst of a fistfight or an intimate embrace? In how many ways can the human body translate text or music into movement? Or vice versa — what words or signs are most suitable for “translating” an abstract dance solo into language? What parts of music can be understood by the hearing-impaired? What parts of sign language can be understood by people who have never learned the language?


The results of this research were fitted together to form a heterogeneous and multilayered dance piece. The choreography is meaningful for both hearing and hearing-impaired audiences — but in different ways. Staring into this thick, swirling cloud of meanings and movements the viewer may glimpse an opening into an unknown world, or, finally, may understood what was being said all along.


“About Strange Lands and People” is a dance theater piece for four virtuosic professional dancers, trained at places like the Julliard School in New York or the Hamburg Ballett. The choreography was developed in close collaboration with the hearing-impaired sign language speakers. The piece has been expressly designed to be accessible for both hearing and hearing-impaired audiences. Spectators who are unfamiliar with sign language will gradually learn to understand it through the course of the performance. Spectators with a hearing impairment should sometimes be able to feel the low-frequency vibrations from loudspeakers placed underneath the seating area. Other sections of the music are translated into sign language by the dancers themselves.


CHOREOGRAPHY: Joshua Monten


DANCERS (all casts): Derrick Amanatidis, Ariel Cohen, Simone Detig, Fhunyue Gao, Joshua Monten, Eugene W. Rhodes III, Nicky Vanoppen


SIGN LANGUAGE COACHING: Brigitte Schökle Staerkle, Nadine-Sara Lüthi


COSTUME DESIGN: Kathy Brunner


LIGHTING DESIGN: Mirjam Berger, Tonio Finkam


VIDEO: Tae Peter


PHOTOGRAPHY: Christian Glaus, Sabine Majer


GRAPHIC DESIGN: Marion Allon/lurelure


ADMINISTRATION: Dominique Cardito


PRODUCED BY: Verein Tough Love


FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, SWISSLOS/Kultur Kanton Bern, Kultur Stadt Bern, Stadt Bern – Direktion für Bildung, Soziales und Sport, Migros Kulturprozent, Stanley Thomas Johnson Stiftung, Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Burgergemeinde Bern, SIS – Schweizerische Interpretenstiftung, Tanzhaus Zürich, Tanzzentrale Nürnberg, Bayerischer Landesverband für zeitgenössichen Tanz, WR&E Brändli Stiftung,  Max Bircher Stiftung, IGGH – Interessengemeinschaft Gehörlose, Hör- und Sprachbehinderte der Kantone Bern und Fribourg, Stiftung Corymbo, Oertli Stiftung


THANK YOU: Martin Lehmann, Heidi Aemisegger, Sabine Majer, Abigail Cowen, Stephan Fuchs, Cynthia Gonzalez, Silvia-Maria Jung, Daniel Ziegler, Michael Röhrenbach, Gabriela Uhl

VIDEO TRAILER


PHOTOS


FLYER


RADIO INTERVIEW


REVIEWS



PAST PERFORMANCES


28 September 2012 – Tanzhaus Zürich (try-out) (CH)


11 October 2012 – Tojo Theater, Bern (premiere) (CH)


12 October 2012 – Tojo Theater, Bern (CH)


13 October 2012 – Tojo Theater, Bern (CH)


14 October 2012 – Tojo Theater, Bern (CH)


19 October 2012 – Tanzzentrale Nürnberg (school performance) (DE)


19 October 2012 – Tanzzentrale Nürnberg (DE)


20 October 2012 – Tanzzentrale Nürnberg (DE)


11 April 2013 – Theater am Gleis – Winterthur (CH)


2 June 2013 – “Tanzoffensive” Festival, Lofft Theater – Leipzig (DE) – followed by an audience discussion


3 June 2013 – “Tanzoffensive” Festival, Lofft Theater – Leipzig (DE) – followed by an audience discussion


21 June 2013 – ADC – Fête de la Musique – Geneva (CH)


22 June 2013 – ADC – Fête de la Musique – Geneva (CH)


20 Sep 13 – Internationales Zürcher Theaterfestival YEAH YEAH YEAHRote Fabrik – Zürich (CH)


21 September 2013, 20:00 – Internationales Zürcher Theaterfestival YEAH YEAH YEAHRote Fabrik – Zürich (CH)


27 September 2013, 20:00 – Südpol – Luzern (CH)


4 October 2013, 21:00 – Performa FestivalFabbrica di Losone – Losone (CH)


9 November 2013, 20:30 – Hiver de Danses – ADN – Neuchâtel (CH)


10 November 2013, 17:30 – Hiver de Danses – ADN – Neuchâtel (CH)


27 November 2013 – Kaserne Basel – Basel (CH)


29 November 2013 – TanzTheater:now – Phönix Theater 81 – Steckborn (CH)


30 November 2013 – TanzTheater:now – Phönix Theater 81 – Steckborn (CH)


5 December 2013 (2x) – Dock 11 – Berlin (DE) – followed by an audience discussion


6 December 2013 (2x) – Dock 11 – Berlin (DE) – followed by an audience discussion


11 December 2013 – Théâtre de l’Octogone – Pully (CH)


5 May 2014 – VISUAL - 15. Europäisches & Internationales Visuelles Theater Festival – presented by ARBOS Gesellschaft für Musik und Theater – Schauspielhaus Wien – Vienna (AT)


20 November 2014 – NO BALLET! International Choreography Competition, Theater im Pfalzbau, Ludwigshafen (D)


23 November 2014 – Tanz in Olten Festival, Kulturzentrum Schützi Olten (CH)


21 September 2015, 18:00, FEIA – Festival do Instituto de Artes da Unicamp, Campinas (BR)


3 June 2016 – Studio2, Lausanne (CH)






About Strange Lands and People

DANCE PRODUCTION BY JOSHUA MONTEN