Tai Lihua may not be a household name in China, but if you mention the dance "Thousand-handed Goddess of Mercy", most people will tell you it was fantastic. As the lead dancer of that performance, she is affectionately called "Kwan-yin sister", or "Sister Goddess of Mercy".
Let's follow our reporter Du Lijun to learn more about her.
29-year-old Tai Lihua and other performers from the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe danced on stage at the 2005 CCTV Spring Festival Gala Show. As the first dance performance given by disabled people at the Spring Festival Gala Show, "The Thousand-handed Goddess of Mercy" touched many people. It was voted the most popular and successful performance of the evening by Chinese TV audiences. Never has a performance won so much applause.
However, the dancers could hear nothing; neither the heartfelt applause, nor the stirring music they danced to. Born in 1976, Tai Lihua lost her hearing when she was two, due to medicine intoxication.
Tai Lihua in "The Thousand-handed Goddess of Mercy" [photo source: sosogirl.net]
Despite her disability, she pushed herself to accept the reality and fulfill her dream of becoming a great dancer. To coordinate perfectly with fellow dancers, the hearing impaired girls had to use sight and vibration to harness the rhythm and spirit of the dance. But this was not the most difficult challenge.
Tai Lihua recalls her determination when trying to complete the most basic action of dancing - turning around.
"Before 15 years old, I was never trained professionally in dancing. So I failed turning steadily. When the supervisor gave up on me, I felt so sad. But I love dancing so much. It's the most beautiful language in my mind. So I chose to persist."
After that, Tai Lihua forced herself to practice extra hours daily, until she could turn around hundreds of times unceasingly and with elegance. Two weeks later, the supervisor saw Tai Lihua again. Shocked by the big progress she had made, he chose her to present the most demanding dance "The Spirit of the Peacock", which became one of her renowned masterpieces later.
As a hearing impaired person, Tai Lihua has gained true success. She is not only widely recognized in China, but has also given performances in more than 40 countries, including Carnegie Hall in New York City and La Scala in Venice - two of the world's best theatres. She was voted by the Chinese public as one of the most inspiring individuals in China. Li Jue is one of Tai Lihua's pen friends. 18 years ago, he nearly killed himself after failing in the college entrance exam. Li Jue recalls the reason he wrote to Tai Lihua.
"I was a high school student at that time. I didn't know the name of the dance but I was totally grabbed by it because it's really touching." Li Jue received the dancer's feedback quickly. Tai Lihua replied to encourage and ask him to calm down.
"When I received his letter, I hoped he could see a brighter side of his life. At least he has a good body. Compared to me, he's lucky. So he should cherish his life and not give it up. As long as they are alive, people can fight for their dreams."
Talking about Tai Lihua, her roommate Liu Yan becomes emotional.
"The first time I saw her performance was when she danced 'the Spirit of the Peacock'. It's so brilliant and beautiful, I still can't help shedding tears. What impresses me the most is her optimism. I want her to be happy forever."
As the lead dancer and captain of the China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, Tai Lihua is happy with her contribution to both the Athens and Beijing Paralympics. 4 years ago, their splendid performance amazed the audience at the closing ceremony of the 2004 Paralympic Games. Saturday, September 6th, the Beijing Paralympics will witness the spectacular troupe again with a new performance.