BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- An electrical accident left Huang
Yangguang armless, but dancing changed his life.
The 31-year-old was born in a mountain village in
south China'sGuangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and lost his arms at five. As he
grew up, he learned to write, paint, ride a bicycle and plant fruit trees with
his legs, believing he could live as normal as others did.
Now his life is more than normal. As a lead dancer in
the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, he has a tight schedule and
"My dream used to be feeding my parents, two younger
brother and sister on my own," said Huang, sitting relaxed in a chair backstage
at the Beijing Poly Theatre following a show. "Now my dream is to bring joy to
as many people as possible around the world."
On Thursday, Huang flew from Beijing to Japan. His
companions were singers who couldn't see, actors who couldn't hear and a
Having shone during the Paralympic opening and
closing ceremonies, the troupe aspired to even bigger success on world stage,
both commercially and artistically.
At the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's
Nest, on Sept. 6, the spotlight was on the 100-strong deaf dancers who performed
ballet with an amputee girl from the May 12 earthquake. At the Paralympic
closing ceremony on Wednesday night, a deaf-mutegirl "talked" the flame to
extinguish in sign language.
Other leading lights from the troupe included a
pianist, a singer and a flutist, all who had lost their sight but blew away the
audience with their performances.
In Japan, 28 shows await them in Tokyo, Osaka and 16
other cities. They are followed by a two-week U.S. tour to Los Angeles and San
Francisco, among other cities, beginning Oct. 2. Planned destinations after Oct.
22 included Portugal, Morocco, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates.
For those places the troupe won't have enough time to
visit, a documentary named after their ongoing show, "My Dream," was slated for
a global premier in April. The movie was invested by the troupe itself and was
in the running for next year's Academy Awards for best documentary feature.
"My dream is to bring our special art to every corner of the world," Tai Lihua, head of the 153-member troupe, told Xinhua in sign language. "That dream will never end."
In "My Dream," Huang's dance presents a picture of
rural life in his hometown with exuberance and joy. He skillfully carried two
buckets with a pole on his shoulders, holds a ladle between the toes of one
foot, while standing on the other. He also spun a straw hat on his head to
celebrate harvest. Nothing sad.
The same vigor was conveyed by other programs of the
show, which was updated for the fifth time for the Beijing Olympics and
Paralympic occasions and put on in Beijing during the respective Games.
In the two-hour show, two hearing-impaired actors
performed Peking Opera while their blind companions played music and voiced the
dialogue. A group of blind dancers paid tribute to spring. A band without music
books plays, despite its members being unable to see.
"Communication and cooperation between our members is
natural, "Tai said. "Of course it's more difficult for us than for others, but
everyone here has been used to his or her environment. That's the way we live,
so we try harder."
The 32-year-old Tai lost her hearing from excessive
medicine injections during a bout of fever at age two. She had to count from one
to eight in her head more than 1,000 times to complete a dance without messing
The dancer overcame her disability, making a hit out
of her performances at such top-class venues as New York's Carnegie Hall and
Milan's La Scala Theater.
She first "heard" music at the age of seven, when she
had a rhythmic class at a primary school for deaf-mutes.
"When I felt the drum beats passed on to my feet
through the wood floor, I was startled. It was a happiness I had never
experienced." Since then, she had never looked back on her dancing journey.
Like Tai, all members of the troupe had to fully
realize their potential and turn to some special means to fulfill artistic
In a dance celebrating spring, blind boys and girls
wearing sunglasses kept themselves in a neat line helped by a rope tied totheir
waists. Arm in arm, they put together green plastic patches to form a patch of
grassland and smiled while sniffing the grass.
"It was very difficult as sight-impaired people had
no sense ofimages and usually made vocal performances," said an ex-official with
the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF), which was in charge of the
"The choreographer came up with the idea as we wanted
to give our audience something special, something that nobody would think was
possible," she said.
To give the blind dancers a basic idea of body
movement, the teacher made a pose first and then let them feel the position of
her arms and legs.
"Many blind kids didn't even know what a smile is,"
said the official, who had been working closely with the troupe since its
establishment and spoke on condition of anonymity. Like Tai, the troupe
authorities always called the members "kids" in affection.
Some could only make awkward expressions or simply
laugh when told to smile, she said. The teacher had to use hands to fix a smile
on their faces and asked them to remember the muscle movement.
Their work paid off. The elegant, bright smiles were
infectiousand always enlivened audiences.
DISABLED BUT PROFESSIONAL
Huang was recruited by the troupe in 2001 when he
took part in a national arts contest for the disabled and won a prize. Before
that, his inspiring story had drawn media attention and aroused the interest of
a local official in charge of cultural affairs. Helater choreographed a dance
for him to showcase the armless man's special talent.
Like Huang, most of the troupe's members were picked
from special schools or national art competitions, or recommended by local
disabled people's federations, Tai said.
They were selected according to their artistic talent
or enthusiasm despite few having received professional training before, she
"After they entered the troupe, we found good college tutors and famed artists to teach them. We must ensure a sound, professional foundation for our art."
At first, the troupe was just a provisional
organization after its 1987 founding when more than 30 disabled teenagers were
allowed to take part in the First China Art Festival in Beijing. Their
performance moved a large audience and the troupe was formed.
"Authorities of the CDPF fought for that opportunity
at the festival," the troupe official recalled. "They thought those children
needed a stage. Many of them loved singing and dancing and could do it well
However, in the first 14 years, the troupe only
existed when big activities were held; members were temporarily called up from
schools and other places to enhance several programs.
"The troupe was totally at an amateur level at the
time, kind of self-entertaining," the official said.
A turning point emerged in 2001 when the troupe was
invited by the CASI Foundation for Children to perform in six U.S. states.
Officials deemed it necessary to put on a professional show and started to
formalize its organization, training and choreographing the members
"It was a huge success and gave us enormous
confidence," said the official. "We realized we were not only the same as other
people, but we could also become artists."
The troupe decided to reject government funding and
sell tickets for a living in 2002, eager to prove their artistic value and to
get more money for innovation and improvement.
They persevered through tough times when nobody would
watch their shows, even when tickets were offered free.
"Some companies said they would rather give us money
than take our tickets, as they thought performances by disabled persons would
just make people sad," the official sad.
Their reputation, however, was gradually built as the
troupe's name was passed by word of mouth. "We expanded the market step by step.
We put in a lot of efforts in advertisements too."
In 2004, the troupe put on a memorable dance
performance in the eight-minute Beijing segment of the Athens Paralympic closing
ceremony. It featured 21 deaf artists in ornate golden costumes moving their
arms in breathtaking synchronicity in tribute to an eastern Bodhisattva of
compassion, guided by sign-language teachers.
It was a pivotal moment for the troupe. The show
overwhelmed millions at home and abroad and gave a boost to national pride as
the Greek media commented the program rescued the whole ceremony.
Video clips of their performance were posted on
YouTube. "Impressive, I never knew disabled people and performing arts work
together," was one comment in English on the website. "Who would have guessed
the best dance performance I've ever seen would be done by deaf dancers," said
With success, the troupe's pockets swelled to the
point where it had enough money to set up a 1 million U.S. dollar charity fund
"I feel more valued here and I earn much more than I
did back home," Huang said.
The official said there used to be dissent over
whether it was necessary for the group to achieve a professional standard, as
some argued the fact that the disabled could perform would be enough to attract
attention, the official said.
"The authorities finally reached this conclusion: the
sympathy for disabilities is temporary, but the power of art is eternal."