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|Volume 11 |Issue 24| June 15, 2012 ||
When Seeing is Believing
The crowd at the Shilpakala Academy's National Theatre on June 9 was already expecting something spectacular to happen. It was, after all, a Chinese performing arts troupe that was going to put on the show. Nothing less than brilliance was expected. But the extravaganza that treated the thrilled audience had the biggest surprise in store. All the performers were physically disabled. With jaw-dropping skills, hearing and visually impaired dancers and musicians performed flawlessly and with such incredible talent that it was impossible to believe that they had any disability at all. Perfectly synchronised and choreographed, the show, aptly titled 'My Dream', took the audience into a fantasy land of beautiful men and women who seemed to have magical powers to mesmerise and enchant.
But these were not clever magicians who danced, sang and played exquisite music. They were members of the world-renowned China Disabled People's Art Troupe, who have performed all over the world in the most prestigious venues including the Athens Paraympic Games.
The show began with a glittering performance of the Thousand Armed Avalokitesvava Bodhisattva Dance (to depict the embodiment of compassion and mercy) with hearing impaired dancers in gold costumes creating an intensely beautiful dance with impeccable precision and skill. Other dances that got the crowds cheering enthusiastically included the Dance of Spring, Butterfly Lovers, a soulful dance drama with amazing special effects, and a breathless series of dances, such as a skillful Tango with a visually impaired male dancer and a hearing impaired female dancer, the Ramba, Samba and other dance forms that were done with incredible agility and coordination.
While the dancers were breathtaking, blending delicate moves of ballet with the strong acrobatics of modern dance, the musicians who were all visually impaired, were not to be outdone. Using both Chinese traditional and western classical instruments, they created some enchanting music. They delighted the crowd with their flawless renditions of traditional Chinese folk tunes as well as familiar notes such as pieces from The Sound of Music. They waved the flags of Bangladesh and China to welcome the friendship between the two countries.
Organised by the Bangladesh-China Friendship Center, the Chinese Embassy to Bangladesh and Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, the show was honoured by the presence of the Bangladesh Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Dipu Moni and Information and Cultural Affairs Minister, Abul Kalam Azad, Minister, Li Jun, Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh as well as other diplomats.
The China Disabled People's Art Troupe, said the Chinese ambassador, through its performances all over the world aims to spread the message of “joy and hope and the power of will, the embodiment of beauty and the bringer of peace and harmony”.
Abul Kalam Azad said that this troupe, which has performed in about 70 countries, has raised people's consciousness about the rights of the disabled to be integrated into society. He praised the troupe's generosity in conducting a workshop with disabled children at the Shilpakala Academy.
The China Disabled People's Arts Troupe was established in 1987. The Art Director and other staff in charge of stage art, lighting, audio effects, costume design, vocals, instrument playing and dancing are all leading artists of China.
Despite the thrill of watching something so mind-blowing, one couldn't stop wondering how on earth this troupe had trained its members to perform with such flawlessness. The willowy figure standing at the edge of the stage out of the limelight, gave a hint at the humungous task behind the scene. When training normal performers no matter how talented is such a demanding task, how much more challenging would it be to train someone who could not hear, to dance or who could not see, to play music? Thus the meticulous gesturing in sign language by the art director Li Hua, who is also hearing impaired and the lead dancer of the troupe, on stage.
They sang and played music without seeing the bewitched expressions of the crowd, they danced without hearing a single beat of the thrilling music or the excited applause of the audience. But surely they could feel the sheer joy and amazement of the people transfixed by their unbelievable brilliance and message of love. Behind it all were the fabulous art directors and trainers, many of them also physically disabled, who have trained these amazingly talented performers and helped them conquer their impairments with such perseverance and more importantly, compassion, to achieve this awe-inspiring excellence.
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
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