"After all, we're disabled people. But we dance with our heart and soul." Dancer Zhai XiaoweiHe had never danced before. She had been a dancer all her life. At nineteen Mai Li was one of China's most promising ballerina's, until a car accident robbed her of her right arm. Her boyfriend could not accept her and he left. She could not accept herself without an arm and fell into despair. Self-pity. Despondency. She tried to take her own life. Her parents found her in time.
And still she struggled. She struggled to find her will to live. Her balance was off. Her confidence shaken. But her body kept moving. She kept dancing. Slowly she began to make her way back onto the stage. Slowly she began to perform. And then SARS hit and theatres closed and worked dried up and she and her performing partner were left out in the cold. No money. No prospects, they struggled. And then, one wintry night, huddled beneath an overpass waiting for sunrise, she started to dance in the snow and the thought was born that she could give voice to the power of dance to heal -- broken hearts, disabled bodies and dispirited souls.
Not long after her epiphany in the snow she met him. A one legged special Olympics cyclist. His name was Zhai and he was 21 years old. There wasn't a time when he could remember having two legs. He had only been 4 years old when a fall from a tractor took his right leg. At the time, his father had asked little Zhai, “The doctor will have to amputate your leg. Are you afraid?”
Zhai was too young to understand something he'd never experienced and replied, "No."
"There will be many challenges and difficulties," his father said.
“What are ‘challenges and difficulties?’ Do they taste good?” the young boy asked.
His father laughed through his tears and replied, “Yes, they’re like your favorite candies. You just need to eat them one piece at a time!” And then he ran from the room.
When Ma Li first told Zhai about her plan for them to dance, he laughed. He didn’t understand how he could dance. He'd never danced before. But then he realized, that didn't mean he couldn't. It just meant he hadn't yet. And so, he decided to try.
This video is of Ma Li and Zhai Xiaowei's performance at the CCTV national dance competition. It is more than just a dance. It is a story of belief, of dreams coming alive, of perseverance, of rising above, of embracing reality and dancing in the light of what is.
May you be inspired.