DanceLondonReviewVAULT Festival

Chyna – VAULT Festival, London

Reviewer: Mike Wells

Director: Laurence Dollander

Chyna Brianna Harrison-Bell is a 14-year-old dancer. She cannot hear the music to which she dances, instead she feels it.

For just under an hour we entered Chyna’s world. We followed her on her journey to school, learnt about her favourite subjects, discovered her love for football, and then of her love for her friends and family.

The show was a combination of pre-recorded video and live contemporary dance, which worked together well and offered some really nice moments.

The dance itself was a fantastic fusion of styles, which incorporated sign language too, which was great. She’s a really exciting performer to watch, and embodies the idea that music isn’t just something you hear, it’s something you feel.

Her director Laurence Dollander is with her throughout, helping set the rhythm and offer the visual cues while sat amongst the audience that Chyna then works with. Towards the end of the show she joins Chyna on stage and offers us an insight into the method, holding up random cue cards from which Chyna improvises and gives us a little insight into the method. They then up the stakes further inviting members of the audience to select random combinations of cards, which she ably combines stylishly.

It was presented as a work in progress, but it was a far more complete and polished show than that might suggest. It was always interesting, regularly surprising and eminently enjoyable.

The show was created in collaboration with Oak Lodge, a specialist school in Balham, and Deaf dance artist Christo Minamimura who choreographed the piece. Their goal is to bridge the gap between the D/deaf and hearing communities, and this piece certainly does that.

The programme notes refer to Deafness not as a disability, but as an opportunity. Chyna grasped the opportunity with both hands and the show was all the better for it. It’s a great show with a lot of promise.

Runs until 5 March 2020

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