My Dream (28th November 2010)

Jono and I had seen a poster for the show My Dream during our recent travels in Australia and decided we would check out their Wellington performance so went to St James Theatre this evening to see show. Cost us $60 each for A reserve seats and you wouldn’t believe where we ended up sitting – right in the middle of the front row in the stall seats downstairs! And there were LOTS of Wellington-based Chinese in the theatre tonight, that’s for sure!!

My Dream is a performance of Chinese poetry, music and dance by The China Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe presented by 50 physically impaired performers from throughout China. The one-night only show started off at 6.30pm with opening speeches from newly appointed Wellington mayor, Celia-Wade Brown who sadly had another engagement and couldn’t stay for the show, as well as the representatives from the Chinese embassy and NZ Charitable Association.

Lights dimmed and a spotlight tailed the beautiful deaf and dumb host, Jiang Xintian, as she walked in elegant poise in her evening gown to the middle of the stage and began presenting the troupe and tonight’s show using hand-language. Her hands moved in sync with the English narrative coming out from the speakers and I wondered who was following who – the narrator speaking in accordance to Xintian’s hand movements, or was some sort of indicator for Xintian to know where she was at with her signing?

The first dance, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, had the audience in awe and mesmerised – the dancers moved so fluidly in unison and those arm movements were amazing! Absolute precision in time with the music (don’t forget, these dancers can’t hear), arms ‘growing’ out or flicking in various directions from the bodhisattva, with the bodhisattva led by deaf-mute dancer and the troupe’s Art General Director, Tai Lihua. Though we sat at the front row and had plenty of legroom for us to stretch our legs, it was not so great visually, especially when watching the dancers move around the stage (they ‘disappear’ from peripheral vision). But we did get a real close look of them and the dancers all looked very young (18-24), good-looking, fit and full of zest. Oh, and if you were wondering how the dancers ‘hear’ the music, there were two stage assistants standing behind the curtains at the top corners of the stage signalling to the dancers the tempo and the actions. Quite fascinating to watch their aerobic-looking actions turn to graceful dance moves by the dancers :)

There were also two large projector screens set up, one on each side of the stage. Throughout the show, the screens would light up as necessary so the audience could follow song lyrics, translations in English and context of the performances. The visually impaired singers were guided on stage and sang with such gusto, even singing Maori songs such as Pokarekare Ana and Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. I really admired their ability to pick up local songs in foreign languages so quickly (they sing the local songs of every country they visit, IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE). And not forgetting the brilliant visually impaired musicians who played some of the songs sung as well as other Chinese and well-known hits with a mix of traditional Chinese and modern day instruments. Jono was most impressed with the Chinese flute player’s solo and the guy behind the drum set; I kept my eyes peeled on the piano player whose hands were running up and down the keys. You would not know of their disability if you closed your eyes and just listen to the music they played. Very impressive and flawless orchestral group that wore cool-looking sunglasses on stage. And they also did a short skit with walking sticks and square grass-like boards, a long rope encircling their waists so they were always an arms length away from each other. Yes, they were performing on stage their dance WITHOUT anyone guiding them!

More dancing, singing and music, each segment introduced by the host – the audience were entertained with a dance duet depicting the Butterfly Lovers (Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet), a Pointe classical ballet dance of a graceful swan, Latin dances (the cha-cha dance was brilliant!) as well as more traditional Chinese dances and music, ending with everyone on stage for the final bow. I thought using song ‘Conquest Of Paradise’ to close of the show wasn’t appropriate, giving it a grim ending. Well, it didn’t deter the crowd giving the performers a standing ovation and everyone clapped enthusiastically as the performers walked towards the front of the stage and bowed again.

The show was 2-hours long with no interval and truly amazing – highly recommended you go see the show if they come to your town. Given their disabilities (hearing and visual impairment and physical disabilities), the performers showcased their extraordinary talents with such grace, beauty and precision that makes one admire their strength and determination to overcome their difficulties to pursue their dreams. I left wondering who the handicap really is, me or them, for what I’ve done and achieved to date seem miniscule compared to what they had gone through in life. Hmm…makes me really appreciate my life and my independence to do even simple tasks on my own…


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