It is hard to describe Foreign Tongues in a few words, as the whole performance is much more than just a dance show. Lighting design, music and landscape combine to create a magic atmosphere that stimulates the senses, mind and heart. Foreign Tongues is not about watching, is more about living a whole immersive experience.
By investigating the complexities of verbal communication in a multicultural society, Foreign Tongues triggers positive emotions and a sense of collectivity that last for long after the show. Liquid Loft dance company, directed by renowned Austrian choreographer Chris Haring, examines the interactions between spoken words and their physical attributes, highlighting the universal meaning that lies behind gestures.
Foreign Tongues takes place in a suggestive outdoor venue – the cloister of a museum – where the audience is free to wander around and interact with the ‘moving sculptures’ for the entire duration of the show. It feels awkward at the beginning as the only perceivable movements come from seven black figures writhing on the grass and reproducing dialogues in foreign languages. I can only recognise a few words in this confused Babel of different idioms.
They later reveal their face and arms and start to engage in short conversations interpreted through dance, at times addressing the audience who looks puzzled trying to understand what they are talking about. All dancers hold a portable speaker playing language recordings (mainly minor languages and dialects) that were part of personal interviews in different regions of Europe.
The alternation between the use of recognizable languages and distorted sounds contributes to the intriguing atmosphere we are immersed in. The dancers’ facial expressions and brilliant acting abilities often suggest a sort of familiar behaviour and even if we don’t understand, we can assume what they are trying to communicate. Especially when seeing them laughing uproariously, the audience cannot resist to share a smile.
People look at each other baffled and amazed at the same time as this stream of voices and languages turn into rhythm for performers to dance on. Patterns are interpreted through gestures that define a new way of communicate that goes beyond the linguistic content. The focus keeps shifting from one dancer to the other as they move freely around the cloister engaging with the landscape, changing style and sometimes body shape, and turning into a thousand of different characters.
Foreign Tongues is a site-specific performance, part of a wider IN SITU project, based on local languages and dialects, reflecting the sound environment of the place. In this show all languages come together not to be understood, but to create a universal rhythm that highlights the importance to preserve the language heritage, and to prove how much is actually assimilated even if we think we didn’t understand.
Reviewed at Operaestate Festival 2018 on 18 August