Without knowing anything about sign language before watching this piece, I was impressed by the way in which gestural language and dance had been merged and developed in such a fluid and beautiful way. As well as performing the more abstract parts of the dance with grace and vigour, the two dancers express the central narrative clearly and creatively: it follows a speaker of sign language trying and failing to communicate with someone who does not speak the same language, and then the situation reverses. The audience are encouraged to see it is not a question of sign language speakers being 'disabled' but rather able in a different way and the same goes for speakers of verbal languages.
There were moments of intense synchronicity which showcased the dancers' obvious talent and strength; this was made possible by the clearly powerful onstage connection which they had. They were engaged and the piece was engaging.
However, in the Q and A afterwards, it became clear that none of the people involved in the piece are sign language speakers/deaf or hard of hearing, and according to an audience member the language they were using in the dance was not British Sign Language (BSL - a fully linguistic communication system) but English sign, which is a more basic system of signs. This would be less problematic if the show weren't specifically marketed as a representation of BSL; it was certainly misleading, especially since many of the audience members, like me, were not sign language speakers. Moreover, I automatically assumed I was being shown the "barriers of a deaf person trying to communicate in a hearing world" by deaf artists, and finding that I was not made me feel very uncomfortable. The company have a duty to make it much more clear that they are not themselves members of the deaf and hard of hearing community and cannot speak on their behalf. Presenting disabled characters or stories in the arts and media without using disabled performers or creators is a hugely contentious issue; 95% of characters with disabilities from a list of the top 10 TV shows in the US are played by able-bodied actors, according to a study released by Ruderman White Paper in 2016, and this is a form of discrimination. It's already hard enough for disabled performers to get parts and have their voices heard without able-bodied actors taking the few disabled parts available!
It was clear in this Q and A that Monica Nicolaides is aware of the problematic nature of her work. Hopefully in the future she will continue to make beautiful dance pieces having learnt from the experience, with more careful consideration given to issues of representation and appropriation in the stories she chooses to tell and how she tells them.