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Interview: 14-year-old deaf dancer Chyna: "I want D/deaf and hearing people to be equal and I want everyone to be kind to each other"

Chyna is 14, a dancer and deaf.  In an eponymously titled multimedia dance production, she takes the audience on a journey through her daily life. 

Chyna Vault Festival 1

Created in collaboration with Oak Lodge, a specialist school for the D/deaf in Balham and Deaf Dance Artist Chisato Minamimura, this performance aims at bridging the D/deaf and hearing communities. Here she talks about how performance makes her feel and what it means to her and her hopes for the future.

Where did the idea come from and how did you create the piece?
Laurence [Dollander, the director] spoke to me about the project, she asked me a few questions, she wanted to incorporate being D/deaf and D/deaf empowerment to a live performance.
So I started to practise, I think we had that conversation back in September. I practised weekly during December and twice a week from January right through until now.
Soon it’ll be March when the performance is and I’ve been performing a lot, so it’s a long time and I’m very excited. I’ve progressed and practised a lot.
Chisato Minamimura, the choreographer who has been working on this project with us, has been supporting me with my performance, we’ve been working together at improving, throwing ideas in.
We’ve had discussions on how to incorporate body language and facial expressions. It was really interesting. As we worked together, it became easier.
She really encouraged me to improve my steps and movements.
Chyna vault festival 2
When did you first start dancing and what does dance mean to you?
I first started performing when I was at nursery. Then when I was in primary school, I started doing ballet and because I was Deaf, the teacher supported me with communication and movement, I copied her movements.
It was really fun. When I went to secondary school, every year there was a performance at Christmas time. They asked me to get involved.
There was a disco, it was really fun too. I won the dance competition at the disco and won it again the following year.
More recently, I took part in an all-day workshop with Deaf Choreographer Chris Fonseca. He taught me how to dance and we performed together.
He explained that being able to dance was also about D/deaf empowerment. I was really proud.
I really enjoy getting involved with dance and theatre.
What does it feel like when you are performing and do you get nervous?
When I started performing, I felt really nervous but everyone has been very supportive and now I am more calm and relaxed.
Dance is fun and I enjoy it. It’s really interesting. It makes me think more and helps me with expressing ideas.
Chyna Vault festival 3
What are you planning next?
I want to do my GCSEs, I want to go to college and study as well as being involved in artistic projects.
In the future, I want to do something like that and I want to encourage D/deaf empowerment.
I want D/deaf people to be involved and I would like for some D/deaf people to be famous.
I want D/deaf and hearing people to be equal and I want everyone to be kind to each other.
I want D/deaf people to be able to earn money and be empowered.
D/deaf people are not stupid. It’s easy to communicate with a D/deaf person. You can use gestures. It’s simple. I want D/deaf and hearing people to come together.
Chyna is performing at the Vault Festival, London from 3-5 March.

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