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Kol Demama from Israel: dancers of sinuous silence

The Israeli dance company Kol Demama proves with its sinuous performances that sound is ultimately subjective. The very name Kol Demama is Hebrew for ''sound and silence,'' which is what this exotic dance company is all about. It integrates hearing and deaf dancers so subtly that the audience is unable to tell them apart. And the deaf dance to music they cannot hear in a conventional way.

As the group's founder and choreographer, Moshe Efrati, explained to an audience at Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater recently, the unusual noises on the sound track of one number are ''the voices of the deaf dancers in the company - the deaf dancers can dance to their own voices which they cannot hear.''

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Efrati has originated a series of cues on which the deaf dancers move: Vibrations from the sound track which they feel through their feet, as well as shoulder taps, brushing fingers, sight cues from the dancers who hear, and a system of keeping time from pulse beats.

The dances are abstract - ''Reminiscences,'' ''Aspirations,'' ''Textures,'' and so is much of the accompanying sound track, which sometimes resembles the sound track of a movie on urban life. At times it sounds like the music of John Cage, at other times like a tape wound backward.

The 17 members of Kol Demama look like moon children dancing to moon music. They wear skintight, silvery body stockings and perform with a cool, otherwordly athleticism. Their setting is austere: a bare stage with long bolts of dyed fabric as the only backdrop. At times they prance like centaurs and centaurettes , at times they dance with the clockwork precision of the Rockettes, whom they in no other way resemble. There is little tenderness in their dancing, but a great deal of tension and energy.

Kol Demama was established in 1978 from a merger of two other companies Moshe Efrati had founded: ''Demama,'' the deaf ensemble begun in 1965 and ''Efrati,'' the hearing group of dancers begun in 1974. Efrati, a former student of Martha Graham, also helped found Israel's Bat Sheva dance company.

The Kol Demama Company is on a 12-city Mexican and American tour through Houston; Los Angeles; San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; New Orleans; Louisville, Ky.; Memphis; Nashville; Guanajuato, Mexico; and Mexico City. The tour will conclude at the City Center in New York Nov. 20-25. It is presented by the Kinneret Foundation for the advancement of the arts in Israel.

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