A man lifts up a woman while another spins and twirls to the beat of the music in what appears to be a typical dance show – only this performance is anything but. These dancers aren’t just amazing – they’re amazing despite being disabled as the man lifting the woman is blind, the woman being lifted is missing part of her arm and the woman spinning and twirling has only one leg. The dancers are members of Bird and Water Dance Ensemble, a Taiwanese dance troupe comprised entirely of disabled people. And, to show that disabilities don’t define a dancer, Bird and Water traveled to West Valley College to perform “Dance with Us!! Across the Ocean” in conjunction with Mission College’s Mission DANCE Company on Sept. 6 and 7.
The outcome of the cross-continent collaboration was simply incredible. Audience members sat with their jaws on the floor, clapped enthusiastically and held back tears during the two-hour show, which included Mission College’s emotionally-charged “Gravity” performed by Missy G. Vasquez and Esteban Deleon and hauntingly beautiful “Hooked” danced by Melanie Bradley, Marlon Chen, Selina Chih, Tara Deasy and Tanya Nguyen, and Bird and Water’s whimsical “Oyster Woman” and show-stopping “Perfect World.” The audience was so moved by practically perfect performance that the dancers were given a standing ovation.
“It’s inspiring what they can do,” said Mission College Dance Department Chair Brenna Wundrum. “You should see the backstage process. Everyone is helping everyone by moving curtains, moving chairs, and helping people get their costumes, which are really elaborate. It’s really great for the students at Mission to see the fact that they work together so cohesively…They know exactly what to do, how to do it and where to go. It was really beautiful backstage.”
Club president Chih, who was instrumental in getting the group to West Valley, explained that there are some tricks to help the dancers know what to do during a show. “They have help on the stage. There are marks. They use rubber bands so they know where the center [of the sheet used in one performance] is and they have special tapes on the floor.”
“They’re awesome,” she continued. “I know every single one of them. I know every single one of their stories. I think it’s very inspiring because most have never seen people dance with one arm or one leg. I have two arms and two legs and I can see…How about them? They have such a big challenge and don’t give up their dream.”
Bird and Water Dance Ensemble’s final tour stop was on Saturday night. They will be flying back to Taiwan this week. Mission DANCE Company is gearing up for the new school year and will hold auditions at the end of the month.