Theme park highlights challenges facing China's dwarfs

Thu Mar 25, 2010 11:38pm EDT
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By Maxim Duncan

KUNMING, China (Reuters Life!) - Sitting in a valley in southwest China sits an unlikely and controversial theme park -- the Little People's Kingdom of dwarfs.

Here, dwarfs perform in fairytale costumes for tourists, drawing both curious crowds and a fair share of criticism.

For many of the employees, the park is a rare opportunity to find work, and, as unlikely as it seems for men and women doing daily spoof performances of Swan Lake in tutus, respect.

The park, near Kunming city in Yunnan province, employs 108 dwarfs from across the country, who twice daily gather on an artificial hillside to dance and sing for tourists.

As well as a host of dwarf guardian angels, the fantasy world has a king, an army, a health department and even its own foreign ministry, and all must pretend to live in a miniature hilltop village of crooked little houses.

For 80 yuan ($11.72) -- not a small sum in China -- tourists can watch skits, sentimental group dances and acrobatics some may view as more than a little reminiscent of medieval freak shows now deemed politically incorrect in many parts of the world.

The show's centerpiece, a farcical rendition of Swan Lake, sees performers both male and female dressed in pink tutus and pretending to be little swans.

"When I did it for the very first time, I felt a bit embarrassed. I had never worn a skirt like that before," said 21-year-old Chen Ruan, who left his native Hunan province to join the park when it opened last July.   Continued...