Arms Wide Open
Tai Lihua, president and art director of China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, discusses the documentary My Dream and the group's international travels.
Published: Friday, November 16, 2007
Interview with Tai Lihua
October 2, 2007
Interview by by JoJo Yang
Transcribed/translated by JoJo Yang
Video by Oliver Chien
The China Disabled People's Performance Art Troupe -- composed of performers with sight, hearing, mental and motor disabilities or speech impairments -- has toured in China for the past two decades and traveled to more than 40 countries. They are currently preparing for the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008. Tai Lihua, who has had a hearing impediment since the age of two, is the president and art director of China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe. She narrates My Dream, a new film documenting their performances.
APA: Can you tell us about the history of your group, the Chinese Disabled People's Performing Arts Troupe?
Tai Lihua: It was established in 1987. Originally, the performers were amateurs from all over the country, and they gathered to practice at the training center only when performances came up. But starting from 2000, we moved up to professional level and commercial performances. We had a sort of school at our training center for practice, training, and choreography for international tours -- we’ve gone to over 50 countries. Now we have 101 on tour. Performers are blind, deaf, and mentally or physically disabled with the common purpose of sharing their love of special arts and coming together to realize this dream.
APA: The signature dance is that of the Boddhisatva Avoliketsvara. How did this dance come into being, and does the spiritual aspect influence your performance of the dance?
TL: A lot of people think that the Thousand Hand Buddha is part of Buddhism, but it’s actually one aspect within Buddhist culture, within Chinese culture and civilization. Our performance of this dance is especially designed for deaf people to perform because deaf people have no other way of expressing the beauty of their internal world. Instead, we use our arms and legs to express our internal world to have this truth, compassion, and beauty to give to the whole world. At the same time, the Thousand Hand Buddha is giving, beautiful, and saving sentient beings; she can help save and improve people's lives.
APA: Whose idea was it to turn this into a film?
TL:This movie follows the troupe through its 20 years of experience. In this process, we took the essence of these 20 years and condensed it into this film. It took us three years worth of preparation and fundraising with the Beijing Film Academy’s people, and we spent 1.5 years finishing this film to realize these disabled people’s dream. Because of so many years worth of investment in this performance, we decided to produce this piece. Ten percent of the world’s population is disabled. Through this film we hope for the world’s people to more thoroughly understand these disabled people, so that we may bring about a more beautiful and harmonious world, and to let the beauty of humanity be known in every corner of the world.
APA: Who is your intended audience? Has the film been released in China yet?
TL: This piece is for anyone in the world to see, for all classes and backgrounds to enjoy. In China, we still haven’t released it. A few days before, we had the My Dream premiere at the Hollywood Linwood Dunn Theatre. We had 300-400 people attend, including film critics. At the time, viewers told us that we should let all of Los Angeles, all of the U.S. see this movie. People that didn’t come should really regret that they have missed out on such a great opportunity to enjoy our talents.
APA: Who has provided funding?
TL: This film has been made with our own performers’ savings, in order to achieve their goal. With the Beijing Film Academy, we cooperated and produced the film to realize the disabled children’s dream of creating a movie.
APA: And with the Olympics, a lot of American media have reported that the Chinese government has made stringent rules on who can or can’t attend --
TL: Sorry, about the Olympics and related topics, we have to obey the government’s rules and maintain a respectful distance, this is a secret. This is a distance we cannot disrespect. The news on this aspect we cannot leak out or share here. Thanks for your cooperation and understanding.
For a report on the publicity campaign for My Dream in the United States, click here.