Photo taken on Aug. 24, 2018 shows a part of Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
XINING, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- There is just one bus connecting Khorpa with the outside world. From the remote settlement, which sits on the border of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Loess Plateau, it takes around four hours to get to the nearest town 60 kilometers away in Qinghai Province, northwest China. It's the only public transport link for residents of Khorpa to get out of the mountains.
In spite of the limited transport links, a local student art troupe Ramon Khorpa travel across the country to perform their signature musical "Ramon Khorpa." And, at the end of this summer, 20 students will embark on a new journey -- to go to the college.
Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2018 shows members of Ramon Khorpa art troupe perform in Beijing. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
Ramon means dream in Tibetan. The troupe was founded in 2012 by Wang Hongbo, a volunteer teacher at Khorpa, one of the most deprived areas in China. The Tibetan folk dance has been performed in theaters in as far away as Xi'an, Beijing and Shenzhen.
Troupe captain, Sonam Drolma, 17, was the first among her 19 fellow dancers to receive a college offer. She was admitted to the dance school of Northwest Minzu University in the neighboring province of Gansu.
Sonam Drolma (middle) reaps wheat with her family in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, July 31, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
"I really wanted to tell everyone the news, but I didn't want my team to feel pressured," said Sonam, as she tied dry bundles of grass that almost towered over her.
Sonam's parents work in cities far away from the home, so she lives with her grandparents and helps with the farm work. Before leaving for college, she tried to help out as much as she could.
"The grass is for the cattle. I need to store enough for the cattle for days while I'm away," she said.
A Ramon Khorpa dancer practices dancing in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
Sonam is not alone. Many of her fellow Ramon Khorpa dancers have helped with farm work and domestic chores since they were young. When they got free time, they practiced and rehearsed on the field in the heart of the village, stretching and kicking beside the grain.
A Ramon Khorpa dancer practices dancing in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 17, 2020. (Xinhua/Wu Gang)
"Winter was the worst. It can get as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius," said Sonam, "We would wake up to practice when it was still dark. We felt frozen in just a few minutes. To get warm, we rubbed our hands, stamped our feet and patted each other on the back."
20 members of Ramon Khorpa art troupe perform in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 11, 2020. Each member is granted 5,000 yuan (734 U.S. dollars) for college study. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
As their authentic performance won hearts across the country, a government grant enabled an indoor training room to be built in Khorpa in 2015. Sonam was among 20 dancers accepted by Qinghai Culture and Arts Vocational School to attend professional training sessions.
Dzom Drolma was the last to join the troupe. She is also the oldest dancer. To improve, she makes sure she is always the first to get to rehearsal in the morning and she stays up late into the night to finish her school work. Her commitment to both art and work won her a place at Baoji University of Arts and Sciences in Shaanxi province.
Dzom Drolma packs at home in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
"Today is a sunny day, a day to celebrate. When I received my acceptance letter, I had mixed feeling. My hard work has finally paid off," Dzom wrote in her diary on Aug. 28.
"We are not afraid of hard work. I hope I can find a job near my hometown after graduation, so I can help make my hometown a better place and bring more opportunities to children like us," said Sonam, "Many people have helped our art troupe. We must do our best to pay them back."
A member of Ramon Khorpa art troupe shows her college acceptance letter in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, Sept. 11, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
Wang, now the art director of Ramon Khorpa, couldn't hold back his tears when the last troupe member received her college offer. Nineteen dancers were admitted into higher education, and one got to a junior college. Wang gave everyone a big hug.
"I hope they can remain self-disciplined. They must keep challenging themselves to achieve academic success," said Wang.
20 members of Ramon Khorpa art troupe perform for their families in Khorpa in Hui Autonomous County of Hualong, northwest China's Qinghai Province, July 28, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jinhai)
There were still stars in the sky when Dzom got up at 5:00 a.m. on Sept. 16. Holding a flashlight in one hand and dragging a suitcase in the other, Dzom walked out of home to the bus stop. She was the first passenger on board. The bus ride would take her to Hualong County, where she would transfer to a bus to Xining, the provincial capital city, and take a train to the college in Shaanxi.
The crescent moon began to sink below the peaks in the east of the village. As Dzom waved goodbye to her sister and other fellow dancers, the bus honked the horn and drove off. As the sun began to brighten the sky, the dancer knew this dawn was the start of a new, exciting period of her life. ■