February 21, 2013
By Cui Hong and Wu Tingting
As soon as she arrived at the 2013 first session of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), dancer Liu Yan was surrounded by reporters and journalists who had been eagerly awaiting her arrival.The 30-year-old dancer, who uses a wheelchair, is the youngest CPPCC member of the 12th Beijing Municipal Committee. She focuses on arts education for disadvantaged groups.
"It's my first time serving as a CPPCC member, so I need to listen carefully to the other members and learn from them before I can put forth a good proposal," said Liu.
Throughout the session, Liu sat quietly and confidently in her wheelchair, her dancer's posture keeping her back perfectly straight.
A Dancer from Inner Mongolia
Liu was born in 1982 in Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Her grandparents named her 'Yan', meaning 'stone', in the hopes that she would grow up to be strong and upstanding.
|Liu Yan performs at the 2006 CCTV Spring Festival Gala. [Yangtse Evening News]|
When she was nine years old, she saw a dancer perform on TV, dressed in silks and moving gracefully. She immediately fell in love with the art form.
Her mother sent her to study dance under Bai Ying, a famous folk artist, at the Inner Mongolia Song and Dance Troupe. Bai realized that the little girl was unusually talented and suggested that they send her to the Beijing Dance Academy.
After passing the entrance examinations, Liu was accepted into the Secondary School of Beijing Dance Academy.
When she began classes, she realized that most of her classmates had begun studying dance at the age of 3 and because she had only begun at the age of 9, she was actually lagging behind.
As a result, she trained extraordinarily hard in order to catch up and often practiced alone at the studio. Her efforts paid off when she was recommended for admission to the Beijing Dance Academy in 1999.
There, she met Zhang Yunfeng, who has had a great effect on her dancing career. In her junior year, the academy sent Liu to take part in the third 'Lotus Cup' dance competition, with Zhang acting as her choreography teacher. She won the silver medal.
In 2003, Liu graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy and decided to stay on to work as a dancer. She has participated in many dance competitions and won various awards.
In 2006, Liu, together with two other famous Chinese dancers, Yang Liping and Tan Yuanyuan, impressed the audience at the China Central Television (CCTV) Spring Festival Gala.
|Liu Yan poses for a photo. [sina.com.cn]|
In 2008, Liu was chosen to perform a solo dance called 'Silk Road' at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games. It would be, without a doubt, the most important moment of her career.
However, tragedy struck when, during a rehearsal, Liu fell from a three-meter high board and fractured her cervical vertebrate.
It was 12 days to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Liu was only 26 years old.
Her accident obviously meant that she would no longer be performing, but the organizers and all the participants of the opening ceremony agreed that "Liu has given everything to the Beijing Olympics and she is an undisputed hero".
Therefore, Liu's name remained in the program list of the opening ceremony.
While losing the ability to walk would plunge anyone into despair, it was particularly devastating for a young dancer with a promising career. However, Liu stayed strong and decided that she would not let the accident define her life.
A Career in Dance Education
Four years have passed since then and Liu currently works as a teacher at the Beijing Dance Academy while pursuing her doctoral studies at the Chinese National Academy of Arts.
In 2009, she performed a solo dance titled 'The Deepest Night, The Brightest Light', using a wheelchair. In 2010, she established the Liu Yan Art Special Fund, which is committed to providing arts education to orphans and disabled children in suburban Beijing.
"I received so much help from others when I was injured," said Liu. "I want to pass it on to those in need."
Liu says that despite her accident, she is very happy with her life. "In 2012, I was promoted to become a professor. It's a great honor to me as well as a heavy responsibility. Plus, in early 2013, I was selected to become a CPPCC member of the Beijing Committee so I'm very grateful for that," said Liu.
(Source: Beijing Morning Post and baike.baidu.com/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)