By sportswriter Yi Ling
BEIJING, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Looking up to a starry sky, 320 girls in white long dresses performed the sign language dance "Hello, Stars" at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics on Saturday night.
They are virtually angels landing on the earth.
The angelic girls, however, could never hear the thundering hails of a packed National Stadium as they all were deprived of hearing, mostly since childhood.
The disability only left them more attentive in the dialogue with nature. Standing in circles at the 72-meter-in-diameter center stage known as the White Jade Plate, the girls began to speak out their wishes to the stars while the trumpeter Zhu Hai started peacefully the music of "Hello, Stars".
Gradually fanning out to cover the whole plate, the girls raised their hands, looking up to the sky and miming with graceful gestures in unison: "Tonight, there are more stars than ever. I look even more beautiful in the starlight. Hello, stars."
To the crispy melody, 50 sign language teachers around the center stage, hiding themselves from the spotlights, used gestures to remind the dancers of their next move.
The dancers, whose dresses were decorated with luminous stripes, shook their fingers to represent twinkling stars.
"This is the largest sign language dance in the country," said choreographer Yang Wei. "We want to present the world a wonderful unity of man and nature through the communication between the girls and the stars."
According to Yang, the dancers, mostly students with an average age of 20, have trained for more than three months since they were selected from thousands of candidates across the country in June.
Many spectators and staff of the opening ceremony were moved into tears after they watched the six-minute show at a dress rehearsal Thursday night.
"They asked me if the dance was the highlight of the ceremony because they presumed so. I want all the audiences to see the power of belief and dream from the girls," said Yang.
No one than Yang knows better how these beautiful girls have come through in the past four months. In a training base in east suburb of Beijing, the girls spent more than eight hours a day to practice the dance.
"Many dancers didn't expect their daily-used language to be transformed into such a beautiful dance, so they were very excited at the beginning, but later on, they got to know how hard the process would be," said Yang.
Since the girls can't hear the music and find the rhythm, so the sign language teacher played a key role to convey the ideas of Yang's team.
Beside, though most of the dancers had received basic training, but for such a grand show, their movements are required to be artistic and unisonal. The girls had to kneel down hundreds of times every day and many of them have bruised knees.
"That is really hard, but they have done a surprisingly wonderful job. They are the stars in my heart," said the director.
Tang Fengchuan is one of Yang's stars. The 20-year-old from a kindergarten teacher's family in southwestern Chongqing Municipality has been confined to a silent world since a high fever took away her hearing when she was 2.
Tang's mother, a village kindergarten teacher in Kaixian County, didn't surrender to the destiny. Instead, she strived to pull Tang and the whole family from the helplessness, taking Tang for medical treatment around the country and teaching the little girl by herself.
Tang inherited dancing talent from her mother. When she was 13, Tang was sent to a junior high school for those who didn't have eyesight or hearing in Xi'an, capital of northwestern Shaanxi Province, where she received professional dance training.
"I love dancing and I always have a dream to dance with the whole world watching me, because I know my family must feel proud of me," Tang told Xinhua in a text message.
Like many of her friends, Tang suffered from ligament injuries to her legs and she was the last to recover.
"I was so scared I could never appear in the show again, but I never thought about quitting. I knew my friends were waiting for me to start our dream," said Tang.
The girl is home-sick as she has not seen her mother for over three months.
"I can't tell my mum what my show is all about, because it is confidential, but I do tell her to open her eyes wide to try to find me when she watches the opening ceremony on TV," she said.