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Dance of love and fortitude
Latest Updated by 2005-02-17 10:37:44

Awesome, thrilling, tear jerking ... these are the words used by many to describe the Kwan-yin of 1,000 Hands performance on the CCTV Spring Festival gala on the eve of the Chinese New Year.

It was an unusual dance performed by unusual people. With 21 young deaf-mute performers, the dance featured the 1,000-hand Kwan-yin, goddess of mercy in Buddhism. It required all the dancers to perform in sync as one being in rhythm with the music. Without the ability to hear or speak, these dancers achieved the feat through signs.

So far, this dance tops any other show at the gala, according to the opinions of the members of the audience who voted online.

Choreographed by Zhang Jigang, one of China's most prominent dance choreographers, the dance is the fruit of many years of practice.

Its first major international debut was in Athens on Sept. 28 at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics. But it had long been in the repertoire of the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40 countries.

To help the dancers catch the rhythm of the music, sign language coaches were at the four corners of the stage. The signers and the dancers performed beautifully as the dance earned six rounds of applause.

"I want to cry," Zhou Tao, one of the masters of ceremonies at the gala show, told the audience immediately after the dance came to a close.

"The dance should be performed on every Chinese Spring Festival mega show from now on," said one of the thousands of messages posted on the Internet about the dance.

"This Chinese Spring Festival gala can be considered successful only because of the Kwan-yin of 1,000 Hands," said another Internet posting.

The 21 dancers range from 27 to 13 in age. The 27-year-old leading dancer Tai Lihua is the soul of the dance.

Tai lost her hearing at age 2 after an injection of streptomycin that was meant to cure a fever. But she showed her extraordinary gift for dance when she was very young.

She began at a school for deaf-mute people at the age of 7 and shortly after felt the rhythms of a drum beat played by one of her teachers.

She first felt it in her feet and it sent a vibe through her whole body and into her mind. From then on, she knew dance could be a visible form of music for her to express the beauty in her mind.

Tai started her formal training as a dancer at the age of 15, after she was accepted into the the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe. There she learned to let her body feel the music and express herself with the language of dance.

After years of training, she grew from a quiet, deaf-mute girl to a shinning star. Tai is now not only a prize-winner in international events, she is also the only Chinese dancer who has performed in the Carnegie Hall in New York and Scala Theater in Italy.

The peacock dance performed by Tai, originally created by Yang Liping, one of China's most outstanding female dancers, moved the proud Yang so much she put away her longtime resentment to her imitators and volunteered to become one of Tai's teachers.

Yang once said she was so impressed with Tai's fortitude because she was not sure if she could perform her peacock dance without hearing the music.

Although Tai and her colleagues had done the Kwan-yin dance countless times, they practiced day and night during the month before the CCTV Spring Festival gala.

They awoke very early every morning for a jog in Beijing's chilly wind. Then they spent many hours rehearsing until late evening. They were yearning for a performance without a single flaw. And they certainly succeeded.

"Even though the dancers are deaf-mute," said choreographer Zhang, "I don't want to see them dance just for the form, without a soul. I expect them to show, through their dance, the best of Chinese culture.

"I started working with the deaf-mute dancers 10 years ago. At first I had only sympathy for them. But beyond my expectation, I have found they have an endless creativity. They have such a strong will that they have turned the impossible into possible. They are a special group of performers, with special personalities and a special will power," Zhang said.

Editor: Catherine

By: Source:szdaily web edition
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