Created by Jo-Anne Bryan, Carmelle Cachero, King Kimbit and Jordan Samonas
Produced by Speaking Vibrations (Ottawa)
28m | G | Multidisciplinary
If you, as I am, are accustomed to only seeing ASL (American Sign Language) as simultaneous translation of spoken words, where the translator matches the cadence of the speaker, you may never have experienced the rhythms of ASL produced by native signers.
Speaking Vibrations is structured around three works by hip hop poet Jo-Anne Bryan, who performs in ASL. Two dancers, a spoken-word poet, and a translator mirror her ASL poems in subtitles, contemporary dance, rhythmic tap, movement, and voice. Bryan sets the tempo, and the others take it up.
The show cycles through combinations where one performer sets the rhythm and the others match it in their own medium. Tap dancer Carmelle Cachero watches Bryan’s hands and motions and takes up the poet’s cadence. Contemporary dancer Jordan Samonas moves to Cachero’s rhythm. Spoken-word poet King Kimbit grooves with Samonas, bending the words of her poem to the rhythm of the dance. There’s even a point where both poets move to the beat of a spoken-word poem by communicating through the vibrations of their feet in the floor and through visual cues. Finally, King Kimbit translates Bryan’s final ASL poem into English as they set these words—both signed and spoken—to a rap rhythm.
A rich tapestry of poetry, dance, and rhythm worth seeing twice.
To my eye, the various groupings echoed the changing combinations of a Balanchine ensemble ballet. In each case, the “speaker” sets the rhythm and the “translator” follows. Creative director Jacqui Du Toit has made the transitions between these combinations fluid and seamless. What develops is a profound sense of individuals listening to one another and playing to what they see/feel/hear in a different artistic discipline.
In terms of content, the poets speak of their immigrant experiences where, no matter how much they or their families try to assimilate, they are always drawn back to their roots, which they need to express as part of their citizenship within their adopted country. The end result is a rich tapestry of poetry, dance, and rhythm worth seeing twice.
Speaking Vibrations is screening at the Ottawa Fringe Festival until June 27, 2021. Tickets are pick-your-price from $12.50 to $47.50 (100% of which goes to the artists) plus a $2.50 surcharge. Visit ottawafringe.com for streaming information and the complete festival lineup. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe. Shows are on-demand, however the festival’s ticketing platform can take up to 12 hours to email the streaming link. So although there’s no risk of online shows selling out, your best bet is to buy tickets early!