After an overdose of streptomycin to treat a high fever at the age of two, Tai began to lose her hearing. She didn't realize this until she tried to join a group of friends in a sound-distinguishing game. She was five by then and other kids were going to normal schools. Little Tai, thrust in deep depression and solitude, had to go to a primary school for the disabled.
Life had to carry on but a young heart sobbed on in a soundless world… All until one day when a teacher at the special school brought a drum to class and started to beat it, Tai was thrilled by the rhythmic vibration that passed over her body from under her feet. She was overwhelmed and simply bent over to the wooden floor: It was the most beautiful sound in the world to her.
To again experience such a feeling, Tai would press her little face to a loudspeaker and imagine the dance on TV. It was her language and the only one, to express her understanding of the world. From then on, Tai became obsessed with dancing.
At the age of 15, Tai was selected for professional training. But such a beginner as she was, Tai's movements were so uncoordinated and even a little bit clumsy that the teachers were not positive about her future development.
However, Tai Lihua never gave up. Her determination would be physically manifest. During Tai's first summer of dance training, her mother took notice of her daughter's habit of always wearing slacks, never skirts. While Tai napped one day, her mother rolled up a leg of her daughter's trousers. She was shocked to see the severity of the bruising and became distressed to the point of tears.
Dancing, pitifully an art always related to music, captivates Tai. For her, the only way out is to memorize, repeat, and memorize again. In her mind, dancing is a piece of visible and colorful music. It's a unique language to express her inner world. Progress rekindled her hope.
The Spirit of the Peacock originally by Yang Liping is Tai Lihua's favorite dance. The first time she watched it, she fell in love with it. Lots of dancers tried to emulate Yang's performance and all failed. But after watching Tai's performance, Yang kept saying: "If faced with the same disability, I wouldn't dance it as well as you do."
Tai's outstanding performance brought her to the world stage. She is the only Chinese dancer to have performed both at Carnegie Hall in New York and La Scala in Milan. And a poster of The Spirit of the Peacock by her at Carnegie Hall is the only one from China.
Now when the curtain rises, the lights come up and the music fades in, there is Tai in the elegant flowing dress signature to the piece. She moves with her impressionistic interpretation of that precise-stepping and extraordinary land bird. As if in a silent wood, on a green lawn, or by a gurgling brook, with expression of face and body she captivates with physical interpretation and spirit.