Man-fei the Dancer (Part 2)
By Yap Huan Lin
Continued from Man-fei the Dancer (Part 1)
Man-fei once said: “Dancing is a very simple matter; all that matters is that the dancer is happy.” In dancing, she found happiness, and she brought that happiness to her friends.
Man-fei was close to director Ang Lee and his wife Jane Lin. The latter recalls that in the year they got married, they were out cruising on the highway one day when Man-fei – with no regard for her own safety – dashed out to pick a large bunch of flowers for them. The film truly brings her vibrant character to life. Yet, the image of her with flowers in her hands, her eyes twinkling, somehow also brings to mind the transience of life.
An optimistic person, when she learnt that she had Stage 3 Lung Cancer, she followed the doctor’s instructions down to the letter, from working out diligently to doing breathing exercises. When her condition improved, she decided to choreograph a full dance, and Spring in the Hospital was born.
Eventually, the pain overtook her, and her days became bitter and agonising. Still, she wiped away her tears and continued to rehearse. Her dance partner recalls that Man-fei was wracked by pains in her joints and body while performing After the Wedding Banquet. Yet, through this wedding scene, he felt not only her pain and agony, but also her unwavering spirit in the pursuit of beauty in her dancing in her every move.
In her steadfast pursuit of dancing, Man-fei was larger than life.
Travelling to a dance that she had choreographed on an ambulance, she was seated in a wheelchair, with tubes still attached. While she was in good spirits, she looked slender and physically weak, a sight which left her friends in tears. And there in the theatre, the audience too was overcome with emotion.
At 51 years of age, Man-fei left us. However, that figure of beauty and fortitude remains in the hearts of the lives she has touched. Her family and friends established a dance grant in her name, keeping her memory and uncompromising spirit alive.
(Translated by Daryl Li)
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