|Title||Meet Gulpiya Jelili: The Xinjiang princess of aerial tightrope walking|
|Description||Meet Gulpiya Jelili: The Xinjiang princess of aerial tightrope walking
As the sound the rawap, a stringed instrument, starts to echo across the room, 10-year-old Gulpiya Jelili begins to dance along a tightrope.
The performance is called dawaz, a traditional form of acrobatics in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The performer holds a balancing pole, tiptoes along a tightrope and undertakes movements such as walking, lying down and jumping. The greater the skill, the more challenging the movements.
Dawaz was added in to the national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
A regional acrobatics troupe recently visited 10 regions in Xinjiang looking for talented performers to cultivate and develop the art.Jelili’s tightrope walking career began in the country’s only dawaz training school in Xinjiang’s Yengisar County. The school was opened by Adil Uxur, a sixth generation dawaz performer.
Studying dawaz is not easy, but when Jelili heard about the school, she begged her mother to send her. The then 8-year-old even threatened to go on hunger strike if she refused.
Tightrope walking was not only an amazing skill to learn, but it also allowed her to escape the two people in her life she most disliked — her biological father, who abandoned his children after divorce, and her distant step-father.Before dawn, the girl and her classmates do handstands on a long bench, their legs against the wall. They typically stay in a handstand for 10 minutes, but as a key performer, Jelili must continue for an extra five minutes, causing the blue veins to appear on her temples, and the muscles of her arms to shake.