The Dance

November 12, 2009

The Dance

Coping with the loss of a significant part of your identity, whether it is the loss of a limb or the loss of intellectual or physical functioning, is a difficult journey. Although each of these losses are different, people experiencing them understand the common feelings of anger, depression, and social isolation from being “different” or “changed.”

Last week a friend shared with me a video of a performance by one of 7,000 teams who entered a Chinese modern dance competition in 2007. This particular dance team won a silver medal and received the highest number of audience votes. What is so amazing and unique about them is what they have in common…. they both have lost a limb. Definitely not your typical dance couple!

Ma Li, who is now in her 30s, lost her entire right arm in a car accident when she was 19. She had danced ever since she was a little girl and had been training to be a ballerina. After the accident, she fell into a state of depression – her one passion in life, dancing, had been callously taken away from her. Along with the loss of her arm, she lost her center of gravity and balance. Attempts to do  simple spins and turns ended in crying bouts on the floor.

After a friend asked her to coach a children’s dance group, she realized how much she loved and missed dancing. Watching the little kids move and laugh, rekindled Ma Li’s desire to dance again. She began to practice again, learning how to compensate for her lost limb – how to be graceful and fluid and strong in a different way from before.

In 2005, Ma Li met 21-year-old Zhai Xiaowei, who has lost his left leg in a farming accident when he was four. Ma was determined to persuade him to dance with her. Xiaowei had trained in cycling, swimming, diving, and the long and high jump, but never in dancing.

As they began to train together, it was evident that perhaps this was not meant to be. Zhai Xiaowei who had no concept of using muscle to control movement, became easily frustrated and angry. Ma Li, who had such a high level of training, quickly lost patience with Zhai Xiaowei. They broke up several times, but eventually came back together and start training together seriously. A choregrapher was hired to design routines for them.

Their performance at the dance competition was amazing – thoroughly incredible! Though I know nothing about dance, I do know what it feels like to be different, to be socially isolated, to feel like you have lost such an important part of yourself that you will never be able to re-gain your balance in life. Their actual dance is amazing and beautiful, but what I responded most to were the emotional messages expressed within their dance.

Click here to watch their dance; this is from a Centre Stage CCTV 9 broadcast.

Below is a poem I wrote after watching Ma & Zhai’s performance.

The Dance

I am lost and angry.
Ranting and raving,
I beat against life
And the cards I have been dealt.
You reach out to me.

But how can you help?
You are an incomplete person
Just like me.
I am alone…
Afraid to trust…
Afraid to love…
Afraid to dance…

Yet your touch comforts me.
It knows the pain,
The looks and stares,
The murmurs that keep us
Locked away from the world,
Locked away from the normal people,
Locked away from the beautiful people
With charmed lives.

Our souls merge as we embrace.
You provide a safe haven,
A place to rest my head.
You soothe away my fears.
I am no longer alone.

Joy has returned.
Hope has returned.
Courage has returned.
The courage to love and be loved.
The courage to dance.
The courage to fall
And to get up again.

If I fall,
You are there to catch me.
Or, we fall together
And help each other.
Together we weather life’s storms.

No longer alone,
You raise me up,
Beyond my expectations.
Through you I see beauty
That once was hidden.
I find grace and balance
To dance
To live
To rejoice.

And the world sees our courage
And our strength.
The world joins with us to celebrate
Our beauty,
Our life’s dance.
The world rejoices in our being.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009
Clip art is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009  http://www.clipart.com


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