The senses are powerful and infinite: that is the message given by Deaf Men Dancing’s latest performance, Sense of Freedom. This is apparent from the moment the performance begins. Without a prop in sight, we are hit with a quick succession of fluid routines set to the Pet Shop Boys version of ‘You Were Always On My Mind.’ Suddenly, there’s a feast of information to absorb.
One smash cut later and there’s wildly different music alongside wildly different routines. Even the outfits are from another planet. This is the performance’s biggest triumph: its ability to wholly shift the sensory experience, and the accompanying emotions, through dramatic and considered changes to visual and aural elements.
The inclusion of poetry – read by a female performer – is a nice touch, and challenges the audience to reflect on its meaning alongside the music and dance. Seamless interaction between the dancers and the poet, a mixture of dance and sign language, is visually impressive, and reminds us that speaking is not the juggernaut of communication we often think it is.
The performance is raw, and the choreography unpolished. This seems deliberate and although some may find it off-putting, it genuinely suits the piece. The tight constraints that come with more polished choreography would limit the dancers’ ability to evoke the sense of expression that characterises the play.
Their passion and skill shine through when they’re working together and also as individuals. The passion of each performer projects a unique personality that becomes apparent despite the length of the performance.
Perhaps the most profound moment is the realisation that the visual and aural information being projected is not shared with the dancers, who are all deaf. To see them connect so completely with the music, the poet and the audience is truly wonderful to watch.
Overall, Sense of Freedom is an evocative performance piece that explores the depth of the senses and human communication in an enjoyable half hour. The performers wear beaming smiles throughout: combined with the upbeat music and impressive visuals, these become quickly contagious.