A new performance this week at Monnot Theatre is all about art, individual experience and the liberating power of movement. Though partially deaf, Pierre Geagea, 34, expresses himself not through speech, but through his Mother Tongue - sign language - and contemporary dance.

Born deaf, Pierre was unable to hear or speak until his mid-teens when, with the help of speech therapy and a huge amount of personal effort, he gradually developed the capacity to read lips.

In the show, Pierre performs on an almost completely bare stage using simple props, including a chair, a table and an aerial silk hammock. At times, a single spotlight dangles from the ceiling, highlighting Geagea's muscular curves and curly hair.

There’s a spontaneous quality to Pierre’s work that translates beautifully into his artistic vision. “I don’t exactly think in terms of choreography. What I care about the most is [how] to integrate sign language and dance in my work,” he said.



Assistant Director Sara Maurice describes the show as a culmination of the dancer's own life experiences and development. “This was a show done by Pierre in May and now it’s coming back to the stage. They’ve worked on it a lot more so now it’s like taken to a new level. Pierre interacts with the music, the music interacts with him, and this definitely gives a certain mood to the piece,” she said.

Mother Tongue features live music from Sharif Sehnaoui and Tony Elieh, pioneer musicians on the Lebanese experimental music scene. The duo worked closely with Pierre to find a harmonious music-movement connection for the performance.

With a childlike smile, Pierre says he was first inspired to dance by Michael Jackson and only became more serious about the effort after he began training at the age of 14 in different dance genres ranging from ballet and jazz to traditional dabkeh. “When I was around 10, I didn’t know much about dance but I used to love Michael Jackson,” he told Beirut.com. Later, turning his talent and passion to contemporary dance, he gradually formed his own distinct means of expression in a style that was further polished by choreographers from prominent Lebanese dance companies such as Caracalla, Arabesque and the Takween Collective. He also recounted his journey in France with La Mission de La Danse which has a special place in his heart.

Director Nadim Deaibes first worked with Pierre 13-years-ago in a show that became one of the first in Beirut to blend sign language and visual performance. “We got together again last year when I came back from France after assistant choreographer Daniel Balabane told me Pierre was putting on a new show,” Nadim explained. “Pierre came up with the concept and choreography, what we provided was an overall outside look on his existing work in order to pull all the different parts together."

Nadim also made a precious observation about the major challenge of this production: achieving effective communication. Since Pierre primarily relies on lip reading, this sort of pushed everyone on the team to make themselves clear while communicating. It was a challenge, but it made the group stronger as a whole.

Pierre hopes shows like Mother Tongue will get more people involved in the deaf community in Lebanon and hopes one day the Ministry of Culture will take the initiative to implement effective learning opportunities for people with special needs.

The 45-minute show opens tomorrow at Monnot Theater and is set to run until July 20. Tickets are on sale at all branches of Librairie Antoine and through Antoine Online.

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