Before Melly Guo (郭韋齊) began performing with the Crescent Beauty (弦月之美) dance troupe, the teenager was bashful. But it was more than just stage fright. Each of Guo’s arms and legs was partially amputated following an illness when she was 7. For years she asked her mother to wrap her arms in cloth every morning, afraid that people would gawk at her limbs.
But after joining Crescent Beauty last year, Guo started letting her arms go bare every day.
“I’m more outgoing now. I don’t feel like I have to hide my arms anymore, and I have more self-confidence,” says Guo, a 15-year-old with an impish sense of humor. During the Crescent Beauty Disabled Talent Show (身障人士才藝大展) last Sunday, the Taipei County high school student performed to an audience of about 1,000 people at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. In ballet and pop dances, Guo ran swiftly across the stage on her knees and performed movements that are challenging even for full-limbed people, including leaps into a full split.
Now in its 12th year, Crescent Beauty Disabled Talent Show gives disabled singers, dancers and artists from Taiwan and China an annual platform. Last Sunday’s performance was punctuated throughout with dances by Crescent Beauty, a group of about 30 amputeed women and men from the Fu-Li Rehabilitation Association for Teenaged Amputees, or FRATA (中華民國截肢青少年輔健勵進會), which also organized the show.
“We want to expand people’s ideas of what a disabled person can accomplish,” says Tseng I-shi (曾一士), who is the director of FRATA, a non-profit group that provides rehabilitation and social services for amputees throughout Taiwan, and deputy director-general of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
Other performers at Sunday’s show included paraplegic pop singer and dancer Ren Wen-chien (任文倩), who nimbly manipulated her wheelchair in a rapid series of turns and pops before ripping off her black evening gown to reveal a slinky, sparkly red sheath underneath; armless artist Yang An-dieng (楊恩典), who painted a traditional Chinese watercolor of a peony flower with her feet on stage; and mother and son drummers Wu Sho-zong (吳受蓉) and Wang Tien-yeo (王天佑), who took up taiko drumming as part of Wang’s physical therapy for hypoplasia, a genetic condition that disfigured his hands and forearms.
Crescent Beauty member Liu Chia-wen (劉家汶), who danced in the performance’s opening ballet number, has participated in the talent show three times. The Taichung resident’s right leg was amputated after she was trapped in rubble for more than 10 hours following the 921 earthquake. Tseng contacted her after reading a newspaper article about her plight and encouraged her to join Crescent Beauty.
“At first I thought it was going to be really embarrassing and nerve-wracking,” says Liu, an outgoing 19-year-old college student who also received an award from FRATA last Sunday for her volunteer work with the organization. “But then I saw all these other amputees participating and it encouraged me to give it a try. It’s been a learning experience for me because I never thought I could dance like this.”
Founded 12 years ago, FRATA grew out of Tseng’s research studies of handicapped students for the Ministry of Education, where he worked for more than 20 years. During that time, Tseng began to organize activities and camping retreats for the teenage amputees he met during his fieldwork. The group now has 300 members, half of whom are amputees and half of whom are volunteers.