Friday, October 29, 2010

No arms no barrier for Chinese dancer

From The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

"Once I had learned to write with my feet, I knew I could take on anything," says Huang Yangguang (pictured), who at the age of five lost both arms in an accident involving high voltage electrical wires near the family orchard in Guangxi province, China.

The 32-year-old one-time farmer, now a lead dancer for the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, recounts through an interpreter how his teacher excused him from taking notes while at primary school. It made him even more determined and by the age of eight, he’d mastered writing and painting with his feet, a task that "wasn’t easy," he says.

Next month, Mr Huang will travel to Australia after fulfilling yet another seemingly impossible goal: to become a professional dancer.

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Huang Yangguang taught himself to write and draw. Photo: Donna Demaio

Mr Huang carried his childhood determination into adulthood, continuing his quest for independence by entering a competition held by the disabled troupe nine years ago. The spirited young man says at the time, he really had no inkling if he actually could dance but was encouraged by a local teacher to give it a go. He was accepted into the troupe, which now provides him with a home at its Beijing training centre, rehabilitation, education and most importantly, a career.

Today, Mr Huang feels “ very, very happy” when dancing and has joined the troupe on several international tours, performing the self-choreographed piece The Happy Life in Farmland. He’s happily left behind the fruit picking, tree grafting and watering of his old life.

"From rural beginnings, I now live in a big city as a professional dancer and am completely independent,'' he says.

When founded in 1987, the troupe politely declined the offer of government funding, wanting instead to remain independent on the road to commercial success. There are currently three separate troupes touring the world and 110 artists who live at the training centre.

And at least one Australian can’t wait for the troupe to arrive.

"Bring it on," says Victorian disability advocate John McKenna.

"This is fantastic because it builds on what we are trying to achieve in Australia in regard to being an inclusive society. The troupe is reinforcing a global focus on making life better for those with disabilities”.