To see them perform, you’d never know that the dancers and musicians on stage are disabled.
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The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe has been delighting audiences worldwide since 1987. They’re most famous for their stunning Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva dance, a marvel of synchronized body movements, gentle music, and visual delights.
All of the dancers on stage are deaf or hard of hearing. The musicians in the orchestra are all visually impaired or blind. There are members of the troupe who have limb differences, too. Yet on stage, they move as one fluid and graceful unit made of light, color, and sound.
Though thousands of hopeful performers audition for the troupe each year, only a small handful are selected. The troupe consists of just 88 members, all of whom live, eat, sleep, and practice together in a dormitory seven days a week. They only go home to see their families on holidays. Otherwise, they’re in the studio perfecting their immensely popular stage show.
The troupe has traveled to more than 100 countries to date, earning money for charities that benefit people with disabilities in their homeland. They’ve regularly performed at Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies since their debut at the Beijing Summer games opening ceremony in 2008. The year before that, they were named UNESCO’s Artist for Peace.
The Thousand-Hand Bodhisattva dance is their most popular and difficult-to-learn performance. The troupe’s long-time artistic director is Tai Lihua, who is deaf. Tai uses sign language and physical vibrations to teach the dancers the complicated dance moves needed to mimic the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, a goddess of compassion.
China has a high percentage of people who live with disabilities, yet their ableist society offers few programs, accommodations, or employment options. The China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe aims to shed more light on the incredible things they can accomplish, while also offering opportunities that simply didn’t exist before.
“In China, as with the rest of the world, we face a lot of obstacles,” said Luo Xiangjun, a troupe member who lost his arms in an accident as a child. “Disabled people are still a weak group in society. But I hope through my hard work and our efforts here, we can overcome these difficulties.”
These gorgeously choreographed stage acts are so impressive, and we love them even more knowing that the dancers involved are improving the lives of other people who live with disabilities.
Watch the video below to learn a bit more about the troupe, and don’t forget to share.
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