HOUSTON – In the shadow of downtown Houston, there was an unexpected sight – a group of young dancers from China performing a precision piece about a Thousand Armed Buddha.
While an audience hears lilting music, the dancers hear – nothing.
The dancers are all deaf. They are part of the Disabled People’s Art Troupe, making stops in the U.S., including a recent show at Minute Maid Park.
Their founder, Mu Jianzhi explains that rehearsals begin on simple wood floors, so dancers can feel the music’s vibration and the teachers sign and direct the dancers like conductors.
Coordinating two teens is tough enough. Coordinating two dozen of them can be frustrating. Occasionally, the conductors’ exasperated gestures need no translation.
The students, several of whom were abandoned by their birth parents, go to school, train and are eventually paid when they perform.
Mu says the goal is to overcome handicaps and demonstrate these hearing impaired dancers are much the same as everyone else. Bystanders at Buffalo Bayou Park were surprised to learn the dancers are deaf.
The conductors/teachers can speak and say that sign language is international. So, while the Chinese troupe can’t communicate in English, members can communicate with Americans, by signing.