The performance of the “special” students of Raghava Lawrence, actor and dance master, was, perhaps, the shortest programme (10 minutes) so far to be performed on stage at the World Classical Tamil Conference on Thursday. Yet, what a performance it turned out to be!

What made it stand out? Because, it was performed by men with disabilities, especially those with severe disability in the leg that rendered walking without support impossible.

The first participant entered the stage to the tune of the Classical Tamil Conference theme song “Pirappokum” amid loud applause.With severe deformity in his legs he had to propel his body forward with the help of his hands. But, once he took centre-stage, it turned out to be a blistering performance.

With two stumps for legs, he twisted and turned these to the tempo of the music. A chair was used as a prop for some steps. Another participant “walked” in to perform for another stanza of the theme song. His twirl of chair using his legs was a blazing performance.

The theme song gave way to a folk number and continued on to a rap. The fast paced number had the participant executing even somersaults and thereby showing that disability was no hurdle to display talent.

The final part of the performance had all the seven participants doing a jig as a group.

The enthralled audience (who were a good number in spite of it being only 10.15 a.m.) did not stop cheering the participants.

It took a long time for the applause to die down. There were many people who had tears in their eyes, moved by the determination of the participants.

Mr. Lawrence appreciated the crowd for their support and expressed gratitude to the Chief Minister for having invited the troupe (part of the Lawrence Charitable Trust) to perform. “There are many who do not like our troupe to perform in spite of us showing interest and asking for an opportunity. My aim is create a dance school for the physically disabled so that I can make 1,000 such ‘children' perform,” he said. One could not help but go back stage (despite the tight security) to congratulate the master and his pupils. Mr. Lawrence was a happy man. “Actually the time given to us was 30 minutes. But, my boys could do such steps only for 10 minutes. Hence, we had to curtail our performance,” he told The Hindu.

It took him 10 years to coach those who had performed on stage. How different was it training these “special” people? “When you teach others there is pleasure. But, when you teach these people, there is pain [because of their plight],” was his answer. The performers Ramesh, Masthan, Pandi, Mahesh, Jegan, Arun, and Nageshwar Rao, happily posed for a picture with their beloved master.

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