Dancer/director helps disabled performers find their place
Name: Xue Li
Occupation: Media Director for the China Disabled Arts Association
Hometown: Dalian, Liaoning Province
How did you become involved in media work?
Before moving into media, I was a dancer in an art ensemble in Jilin Province, northeast China. I longed to become a prominent dancer, yet I became aware that dancing is a cruel art, and that few people can stand out in this field. This troubled me, though I was only a 16-year-old at the time. By the time I was 18, I made up my mind to head for Beijing in search of new opportunities. I worked as a dance teacher for a time, but I found my impatience was a major obstacle to my becoming a good teacher. I gave up dancing to attempt some other jobs instead, trying my luck as a tour group singer, a building materials sales manager, and an accountant. After all these, I found that my heart was still in the performing arts. Therefore, I tried my hand as a stylist in a few television series, films, and modeling competitions. My break came in September 2001, when I landed a job with Beijing Television as a director and editor. From there, I became determined to work in media.
What attracted you most when you first did your current job?
Previously, I had never engaged in anything related to disabled artists and never thought of being a member in the Special Arts Association. At first what attracted me most was that I could visit different countries with the China Disabled People's Performing Arts Troupe. Gradually I found that was not my main motivation. In my current position, I must work out everything by myself. I love a challenge, and the fact that I must always rack my brain for ways to get the troupe more media attention makes the job very appealing to me.
What is the biggest reward that you have gained from working for special arts?
Since becoming media director, I have organized various promotion activities abroad, and my horizons have expanded. In 2003, I served as the producer of a documentary called My Dream, about how disabled people overcome their difficulties in the performing arts. To my surprise, the film was voted the best documentary at the First Hollywood International Film & TV Festival in 2004.
I think my biggest reward, however, comes from helping disabled people achieve their goals in the arts and develop talents that they never knew they had. If you spend time with a group of disabled people, you feel a kind of true heart-to-heart communication. I have learned to use sign language to communicate with some of the hearing-impaired performers. It is a simple language full of imagination, yet its simplicity is its special quality. For hearing-impaired people, sign language is global. It has no dialects. I once asked one of the troupe's hearing-impaired performers how he would feel if an English-speaking person with hearing used sign language to say "Ni hao" ("Hello") to him. "I would be profoundly moved," was his answer. Everyone knows disabled people are eager for equality and independence. .
How have the rapid changes in China affected you and those around you?
China has definitely made remarkable developments over the past decade, particularly in terms of culture. Now I am learning different skills to enrich my life, because I know that opportunities are waiting for those who are fully prepared. When you obtain the motivation to achieve, then you cannot stop. This is like walking up stairs: You climb one stair, but then you are unwilling to stay where you are; the next step is always what you want. This is development.