For a rare glimpse into the world of true ancient Chinese culture, you don't have to go to a museum and stare at artifacts through glass.
An independent Chinese language television station, NTDTV (New Tang Dynasty Television) has created a stunning array of costumes, dances, theatrical dances, and original music that is already captivating audiences, now three stops into its world tour of 28 cities.
Vina Lee, a choreographer of and dancer in the show, says that her past experiences with NTDTV's Chinese New Year Spectacular have evoked one common word from audience members around the world: beautiful.
"A lot of audience members, after they saw the show, couldn't use any other words to describe it, they just repeat the same thing over and over, 'It's so beautiful, it's so beautiful,'" says Lee. And she thinks part of it has as much to do with the talent of the dancers as what drives the performers and the show itself.
"We try to bring to the audience ancient Chinese culture. Also, NTDTV, as independent media, it does not carry any communist ideology. You can hire dancers if you have money, but good dancing does not mean you can inspire the audience from your heart... the young dancers here…they are such pure dancers. They haven't been educated how we were when we grew up [under communist rule]."
Lee, a graduate of the Beijing Academy of Dance and a professional dancer with a side career as an actress, has also taken a turn at teaching classical ballet in Australia. Her other work includes connections with the Sydney Dance Company, McDonald College, and the Aboriginal Dance Theater Redfern. She is also a humanitarian—last year Ms. Lee was named an "Outstanding Woman Leader" by the New York State Assembly in honor of her leadership and commitment to humanity.
Another performer in San Francisco's three shows at the War Memorial Opera House was a very young—and very talented—harpist. 13 year-old Qingya Dong made a stunning one time only performance in the San Francisco Spectacular with two solo performances. Each city the Spectacular in has a slightly different show, in part depending on local talent such as Qingya who join when the show is in their city.
The young harpist, who doesn't mind the rigors of being a world-class performer at such a young age, has won top honors at international and regional competitions as far away as Japan. But after her most recent performance she looks forward to taking a break.
"I don't get sick of it [music], I just get frustrated that I have to do so much stuff, but after that I get to goof off and relax," says Qingya.
And what of the pressures that come with her status of being a rising star so early on in life? "I guess it feels sort of like a dream," she says. "I don't really know how far my status would be, but I know I have more, like, a personality, as in, I can express myself."
Jiansheng Yang, an Alto-Soprano from Mainland China, brings a thought-provoking interlude to the Spectacular with two songs she performed in the San Francisco show called "Lullaby" and "Tiananmen Please Tell Me". The songs touch on the persecution of Falun Gong in China and the stories of courage that have been lived out through the courageous acts of Falun Gong practitioners who have gone to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to peacefully appeal.
The haunting lyrics of "Lullaby" tell of a mother rocking her child to sleep as plans of going to Tiananmen Square are contemplated. "I didn't intend the song to be sad, it was meant to be very peaceful. This is probably a common story in China. There is just so much to be told about Tiananmen Square."
Ms. Yang's own journey to being a graduate of the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in China and a successful professional stage performer started out in an interesting place—the mountains of rural China.
"When I was a young woman in China during the Cultural Revolution, everyone was sent to the countryside and taken out of school to go work. I didn't have to be at work as early as those who worked in the fields, and I was trying to learn how to sing on some advice I got from a professional singer who I had happened to meet," recalls Ms. Yang.
"I wanted to be somewhere alone where I could practice and nobody could hear me, so I went up to the mountainside at a famous place called Changbai Mountain [Always White Mountain] above the fields to practice very early in the morning, before the sun came up. By sunrise, the workers were already down below in the fields, and I didn't know that everyone could hear me."
Soon the story spread that there were two people up on the mountain singing—a woman and a man, because when Ms. Yang sang low notes, people thought it was a man, and when she sang high notes, they thought it was a woman.
Xuejun Wang, guest choreographer and lead dancer in the Spectacular, is enjoying the chance to be part of a show that promotes the traditional values of his native China. A graduate of the Beijing Academy of Dance, Wang was a successful dancer in Guangzhou before moving to Australia in 1991. Since then, his 30-plus-year professional career has taken him into a wide variety of lead roles and to locales across the globe.
One of Wang's performances in the Spectacular, "The Loyalty of Yue Fei," tells the story of a famous general in the Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1279) when China was invaded by the Jin from the north. The story depicts a man torn between serving his country and watching over his elderly mother.
Wang plays the role of Yue Fei in the performance, and says that it is difficult to explain the inner meaning of the story, but he hopes the audience can understand the concept of loyalty he tries to depict through the performance. "Every audience is different," said Wang. "But you just have to hope that they walk away with a good feeling about what we are performing."
The NTDTV Chinese New Year Spectacular continued its tour from San Francisco on January 5, 6 and 7 to stop in Los Angeles on Jan. 9 & 10 before heading to Canada and back to the U.S. and other countries for more shows. More information can be found online at http://shows.ntdtv.com
The Epoch Times is proud to join with New Tang Dynasty TV and Sound of Hope Radio in co-sponsoring NTDTV's Chinese New Year Spectacular ( http://shows.ntdtv.com. )