Zhao Wanting does a headstand, supported only by her teeth. Photos by Zou Zhongpin/China Daily
Zhao Wanting had no idea where Guangzhou was when her parents asked if she wanted to live there. But that didn't matter. She was going, no matter what. A year and a half has passed since the palpably shy 12-year-old relocated to the port city, known for its rapid development and mass of migrant workers. But the girl has had little opportunity to sample the city's metropolitan offerings. Upon arrival she was ushered directly into a strange new world in which she is meant to grow and, hopefully, prosper. It's a world that bears little resemblance to the one she knew in her rural village in Northeast China, where "Mom runs a small eatery and Dad raises goats". Yet it's also alienated from big city life.
Rather, it's a world unto itself－that is, the world of acrobatics.
It's a life dictated by monotony. Zhao and her fellow students repeat the same routines day after day.
But they have something to look forward to, and someone to look up to.
Despite their humble beginnings, they have become members of the Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe, arguably the country's best.
In February last year, two troupe members, Zhang Quan, then 28, and Zhao Li, then 24, dazzled a national audience when they performed on the annual Spring Festival TV gala, hosted and broadcast by the country's central television station and watched by most Chinese.
They became overnight sensations.
And the duo turned a longstanding dream into reality－making acrobatics a fixture of the annual extravaganza.
"The event featured an equally indelible pair this year," Zhang says.
"It's a dream come true for us. My mother said I made her proud. She didn't cry (then) ... but she did when she saw me train for the first time a long time ago."
Zhang has trained for 23 years, starting from when he was 6.