Anyone who has ever seen the Divine Performing Arts (DPA) Chinese Spectacular’s performance, “Candlelight Vigil,” would be unable to forget its theme song. The sorrowful and graceful melody touched the hearts of many who attended the DPA performances worldwide.
In this performance, Vina Lee’s demonstration of a Falun Gong practitioner’s peace, confidence, and faithfulness leaves the audience with vivid memories.
“I felt that I was communicating with the audience and not just performing; it is a call from the inner heart, a calling for righteousness and compassion. There were tears in the eyes of some people in the audience because the dance truly touches their hearts,” says Lee, a lead dancer and choreographer with the DPA, describing her experience performing “Candlelight Vigil.”
Through classical Chinese dance and music DPA has been reviving the ancient culture of China. The group is mainly made up of ethnic Chinese who have grown up outside of China. The masterful performances of these artists truly depicts the essence of the Chinese culture and has garnered respect from audiences all around the world.
Lee will be performing with the other dancers in DPA’s Mid-Autumn Spectacular in Toronto from September 24 -- 28.
A Dance Style Based on a Profound Culture
Lee says that classical Chinese dance is rooted in the divinely inspired culture of China and its 5,000 years of history. The postures and techniques used in classical Chinese dance enhance the performances with a “deep inner meaning”.
Dancing cannot be learned by listening to descriptions of the movements, but by closely following every dance movement of the instructor. When the performers follow the movements closely, they are in fact learning about Chinese culture, Lee says.
“Whether it is teaching the basics, dance movements, selecting a piece of music, or decorating the stage, the material used [in DPA productions] is all based on the pure, traditional culture of China. When the performers come in contact with an elegant and profound culture, their hearts will be moved, their enthusiasm will abound, and they will have an uplifting experience.”
Lee uses a young performer acting the role of a soldier in the dance “The Legend of Yue Fei” in last year’s production as an example. An American-born Chinese, the performer used to constantly have conflicts with his parents. Through this performance, he learned about the importance of filial piety, and his relationship with his parents improved.
“For him to understand this principle through a dance performance makes me think that this can be more effective to teach young people than preaching to them. Through the performances, they not only learn about the culture but also learn about morality and how to put it to use in daily life.”
Letting Go of Selfishness
Lee says through learning classical Chinese dance, the DPA dancers and their performance have become more pure. The more pure the artistic expression is, the more it can touch people’s hearts.
“I believe this is one reason why they are so successful.”
DPA performers have learned that people shouldn’t live for material gains alone, but should have spiritual pursuits as well, she says.
One of Lee’s friends who works in the same field once commented that the performance of the DPA dancers is very orderly while their smiles are unique, making the performance more touching.
“The orderliness is achieved by letting go of one’s selfishness, because they don’t try to project themselves, saying that things have to be done in certain way… They will follow the instructions of the director and work towards one goal.”
At the same time, the directors do not make any set rules about looking in a certain direction or smiling for a certain length of time or acting strictly in a particular fashion, allowing room for individuality and creativity.
“The orderliness was learned through practise, but within the orderliness there is individuality,” says Lee.
Lee says a performer can reach this stage when he or she lets go of selfishness and does not intend to “show off”. This concept of having no selfishness, however, does not mean not having any ideas of one’s own, but rather to not perform just to seek fame and self-interest and to forget about the artistic aspect.
“The average performer chases after fame and self-interest and wants everyone to look at them on stage. At DPA, however, I believe these things aren’t important.”
“Our performers concentrate on how to spread the great traditional culture through performances. This is a crucial factor. They clearly understand that they are presenting culture, so they don’t have the selfish thoughts of “everyone, look at me.”
Presenting the Integrity of Chinese People
As many audience members around the globe who have seen the DPA shows have commented, the performances convey a deep understanding and expression of classical Chinese dance. There are a variety of movements presented, and the folk dances are very unique.
The performances reflect and promote ancient Chinese ideals of being virtuous, compassionate, righteous, courteous, and wise. They also present the qualities required for men and women according to Chinese culture: men should have modesty, simplicity, chivalry, faithfulness, and exuberance, while women should have purity, compassion, femininity, reverence, and intelligence.
“Every movement of the arms and legs has a feel of Chinese ethnicity and was passed down from many generations. The different dynasties left different influences all of which have contributed to the Chinese culture,” Lee says.
“Our ancestors created the broad and profound Chinese culture. The Chinese Communist Party has radically changed it [the Chinese culture] from its roots. DPA is trying to fix this; just like the audiences have said, DPA is trying to revive true traditional culture.”
Lee adds that the Mid-Autumn Spectacular in Toronto was an astonishing success last year, and the “enthusiastic and compassionate people of Toronto” left her with very happy memories.