The dancers stand still in a line, only the first one is visible. Suddenly they all spread their arms out until they form a circle, with gold extensions glittering on their fingers. This configuration is known as “1000 hand Guanyin”; the arms sway to and fro until the circle dissolves and the dancers whirl in their gold embroidered costumes over the open-air stage at a lake near Harbin in the far north of China.
One of the dancers is the 20-year-old Tianjiao Zhang, known by her nickname Jiaojiao. Even as a small girl, Jiaojiao knew there was only one career for her: dancing. Hearing aids from Sonova brand Phonak, which she has worn since the age of five, have helped her realize this dream. Jiaojiao was born with profound hearing loss. “Lots of people used to tell me it would prevent me from becoming a dancer,” she says. “But my teacher and especially my mother have always believed in me.”