China’s Disabled People’s Performing Arts Troupe was started in the late 1980’s to give an opportunity of artistic expression to those with disabilities in mainland China. There has been a great deal of stigma attached to disabled people in China, and while that continues, some steps are being taken to alleviate the situation.
The principle dancer and Artistic Director of the troupe Tai Lihua is deaf as are many of the performers. Through her performances she has now become a major celebrity in China.
Their most well known piece is called the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Dance. About their performances Tai Lihua states:
We once went to perform for Lanqiao Prison in Shanghai in October 2003. During our talk with the prisoners, I said: “When we heard that we would be performing for prisoners, I was afraid. But sitting with you today, I feel that we share a lot. The difference between us is that we are handicapped physically and you spiritually.” The prisoners were all moved by this.
The troupe also went and performed in Hong Kong during the height of the SARS epidemic and they especially performed the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Dance for the protection of the people.
The Thousand Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Dance
Feature on the troupe by Agence France-Presse (in English)
Other International Performances
Buddha with 1000 Hands from China Disabled Peoples Performance Art Troupe. Live at “Wetten dass..?” on German Television. (29.03.2008)
The internationally renowned China’s Disabled People’s Performing Arts Troupe entertains during the first hour of the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Performance in Las Vegas.
It came as a surprise to many that the film My Dream done about the troupe in 2007 was not accepted at Cannes.
The organization La Federation Africaine de la Critique Cinematographique had this to say about it in a report:
The Deaf are defiant
One of the soul moving movies here in Cannes is My Dream, staring Tai Lihua (hearing impaired). The non-fiction art film is performed by 84 disabled people. Among them, some cannot hear, some cannot see and some are physically disabled/challenged. This film has gone o major cities of the world like USA, Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, Poland, and so on. The My Dream has also received superb endorsements from world personalities like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Michael Jeffrey and Jiang Zemin. The star actress Tai Lihua has won several awards from different parts of the globe including Italy, China and from the Lion Club that grated her “Outstanding Achievements in Arts Award” in year 2002.
My Dream was however not selected by the festival committee of the Cannes 2007. Not wanting to give up, the China’s Disabled People’s Performing Art and the Beijing Academy is staging a special screening of the film here in Cannes. The event would hold at the prestigious Carlton Intercontinental Hotel, Cannes on May 25, 2007 from 3.00 p.m. 11.00 p.m. In a release, the organisers said the purpose of the screening is to “enhance friendship, cooperation and development.” Materials such as DVDs and books would be provided.
Here is an introduction to that film done by Frederic Ambroisine