Review: Noise, NUA Dance and Ugly Duck
80%Overall Score

Here’s an interesting question: how would you describe the concept of ‘noise’ to a d/Deaf person? How do you think a d/Deaf person would describe the same concept to you?  And how would these two differing perspectives come together in conversation? In other words, how can we all ‘feel the noise’?

Since February, NUA Dance has worked with visual artist Henrique Ghersi and sound-designer Mike Winship to answer these very questions. Weathering a pandemic in the process, the team have just released their work so far, and it is overwhelming… but deliberately so. Fusing together augmented reality (AR) technology and carefully crafted soundtracks with experimental dance formats, Noise is a trippy, raw, and prescient exploration of how ‘loud’ and dominating some experiences can be.

At times, the scratch’s dances appear almost ‘normal’, with talented artists moving with incredible grace and purpose to engaging music. But then NUA tears that normality at its seams: blinding cracks of red light cut across the screen; vowels become screeches and screeches become whines; the dancers’ bodies morph and distort in size as if seen through the lens of LSD. Suddenly, forms the audience usually take for granted – stable physical proportions, legible subtitles, synchronous sound and movement – are drastically subverted, inducing the viewer into a new sense-filled norm.

Through melding the AR tech and soundtrack together with the performers’ insights (many of whom are d/Deaf themselves), the show pushes the boundaries of what ‘noise’ is. The power of this approach is shocking – at one point, a segment had to be restarted due to the “AR technology not working correctly”: the piece hitherto was so viscerally mesmerising, I doubt any of the viewers even noticed.

Moreover, NUA is surprisingly playful in its approach – momentarily adopting certain styles (like using filmed projection to repeat certain movements) only to drop it in search of something new (like a dancer being harassed by his own floating subtitles). Of course, this means some segments are more incisive than others, but a trend nevertheless emerges: the more ambitious and adventurous their approach, the more wildly entertaining and thoughtful the result. Given more time to polish and compound these pieces, Noise could be seismic.

Really, the whole event can be seen as a proof-of-concept: proof that blurring between dance and technology has captivating consequences; proof that art can be both thematically successful and innately inclusive; proof that the concept of ‘noise’ is far vaster than a viewer may initially imagine. Above all else, Noise is a striking and overwhelming first step – be on the look out for the next one.

Noise was produced as part of an R&D Residency with Ugly Duck – for more information and to watch the performance, please visit Ugly Duck’s website.