NEW YORK—Performing in practicum at Shen Yun Performance Arts, Sebastian Chun strides onstage as an emperor, a Buddha, or a general—all in one evening.
“They are very different roles. You have to put yourself in the character,” Mr. Chun says. By all accounts, he plays each of the distinguished roles with outstanding presence.
Born in Paris, Mr. Chun speaks French, English, German, and Chinese. He has put all his languages to good use in the international environment formed by his dance circle, not to mention during the global performances.
Mr. Chun started to perform in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts following his successful audition in early 2007 for Fei Tian Academy of the Arts. Fei Tian includes systematic and rigorous training as well as many examinations.
In the 2012 dance piece, Lady Mu Guiying Commands the Troops, Mr. Chun plays Yang Zongbao, the general married to Lady Mu Guiying. Mr. Chun has a distinguished presence in the opening sequence of the dance. He talked about his role as the husband of Mu Guiying.
“Before war, you want to show how you have a good life, and peaceful,” he said. “You have to show how intimate and close you are. Then he has to go to war. You can achieve that with shen yun shen fa (bearing), and the classical Chinese dance moves.”
The bearing “is unique to Chinese classical dance. With it, you can express any kind of emotions or feelings: happiness, sadness, sorrow, pain, solitude, determination, courage,” he said.
In this piece, Mr. Chun said, he portrayed “the determination that I am going to go to war.”
In the opening piece of Shen Yun’s 2012 program, An Era Begins, Mr. Chun plays the role of a Chinese emperor presiding over the imperial court.
In building the correct bearing for this role, he noted that it requires “not the arrogance that you see in leaders today. Chinese emperors were virtuous, they ruled with virtue.”
In the finales for both the 2011 and 2012 programs, Mr. Chun played the main Buddha. The 2012 piece is called Before Disaster, the Divine is Rescuing. Mr. Chun strides to center of the highest point on stage at the critical moment, wearing the robes and distinctive hairstyle of a Buddha, and raises his hand to stop impending disaster. He is in essence rescuing the earth, he said, and thus must be calm and utterly solemn.
Among his other roles, Mr. Chun has played Monk Tang, the monk who leads the Monkey King during their adventures in the Chinese classics Journey to the West.
“As a classical Chinese dancer in practicum at Shen Yun, my fellow dancers and I journey to almost every continent. I love travelling,” Mr. Chun said. He considers himself also a student of architecture, so he’s interested in art, likes visiting museums for paintings and other art works.
Among the physical qualities Mr. Chun brings to his dances is leaping ability.
The leaps are very important for Chinese classical dance, especially for males.
“The leaps are very important for Chinese classical dance, especially for males,” he said.
The butterfly kick, tornado kick, and the 540 kick are just a few of the movements he has mastered.
He employs a range of the kicks and leaps in his favorite dance, Chopstick Zest, in which the dancers portray Mongolian tapping rhythms against their bodies with bundles of chopsticks.
Mr. Chun has performed several different Mongolian dances over the years. Mongolians are one of the many ethnic groups depicted in the classical Chinese ethnic dances.
“Mongolians are very close to nature,” said Mr. Chun. “They like imitating majestic and dignified animals, like eagles and horses. They show the joy of life, and how spontaneous they can be. The audience loves it, we are happy to dance it, even though it is one of the most tiring dances.”
Mr. Chun talks about remarks the dancers have heard from the audience. “I could feel it from the expression on their faces,” audience members say. “I can see the beauty and the purity, they enjoy what they’re doing on stage.”
On the dancers’ part, Mr. Chun says, “We all like being on stage, we all enjoy bringing the message, reviving 5,000 years of Chinese heritage. Naturally on stage you are very happy, so you want to give your very best.”
Mr. Chun also fills the role of “class leader,” someone who helps take care of and guide other dancers in practicum, particularly the younger ones.
“We perform and live in a group environment,” he said. “We try our best to be nice to each other, help each other. A lot of stuff we do here is not for ourselves, it’s for others. You don’t help that person because you know you are going to get a reward, you help them so that the whole group can improve together.”
Mr. Chun practices Falun Dafa, which teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. He said it helps in daily life, for how to handle problems and overcome them, how to work well with others.
“Falun Dafa is part of Chinese cultural heritage,” he said. “How pure, how wonderful, how amazing it is.
“The environment we have is a community you feel so happy and so proud of,” Mr. Chun said.
“We are all working together for something so big. We each cherish the opportunity. Everyone is trying to make it better and the audience feels it. The audience is astonished that the show quality gets better and better every year. It’s like a paradise, the whole environment.”
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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