NEW YORK—In an age when male classical dancers are diminishing, the Fei Tian Academy of the Arts training of strong male dancers have become particularly noteworthy.
The 24-year-old Xing Long Wang, a tall and robust male dancer from Sydney, has been performing in practicum with Shen Yun’s International Company, one of Shen Yun’s three world touring companies.
Like a good portion of his fellow dancers, Mr. Wang had encountered ballet, gymnastics, and modern dances, but never before classical Chinese dance, a discipline that requires much beyond the techniques.
“Before coming to Fei Tian, I was also unfamiliar with classical Chinese dance,” Mr. Wang. “Yet as I was gradually trained to the dance form, I realized it was an extremely distinct dance system that differs greatly from all others.”
In addition to the breathtaking flexibility common throughout different dance forms, Wang was required to master tumbling techniques including leaps, jumps, turns, and flips. Yet nothing compares to bearing and form that only comes with time—characteristics that are unique to classical Chinese dance.
“I think it’s all about temperament—the temperament of dancing,” said Mr. Wang in a warm tone matched with succinct diction.
Dancing for Mr. Wang meant nothing soft and flowery like one would typically expect. In addition to familiarizing himself with the long history of Chinese culture that classical Chinese dance has intimately associated with, he was required to meet the athleticism, strength, and aerial techniques that Fei Tian demands from the male dancers, which Mr. Wang said took almost a year for him to finally adjust to.
A Global Achievement
Yet once he was on stage, his performance was grand. Since performing in practicum with Shen Yun, Mr. Wang has and his fellow colleagues graced theaters throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States, including Palais des Congrès de Paris in Paris, Internationales Congress Centrum in Berlin, and the Civic Opera House in Chicago.
“We really enjoyed it,” former ballerina and vocalist Carol Chatterton said in an interview after seeing Mr. Wang and his colleagues’ performance in Chicago this April. “I just loved the women—they are so elegant. … And the men are wonderful …”
Mr. Wang said he enjoys being a part of the male group dances, particularly the piece Qing Imperial Guards from this season’s program, which is set in China’s final dynasty, the Qing, founded by China’s northern ethnic group Manchurians. Albeit lasting merely three minutes, the piece captures imperial guards wearing the typical Qing-style cone-shaped hats and wielding fans as weapons, which “embodies a spirit of strength, dignity, and refinement,” as explained in the program.
“That dance gives off a particular force and strength,” Mr. Wang said.
This majestic piece had also captured the heart of cost engineer Steve Osmond and his wife Jo on the other side of the world in the United Kingdom.
Mrs. Osmond, who was among the full-house audience at the London Coliseum, said she particularly enjoyed Qing Imperial Guards. “I liked the one with the temple dancers with the fans, very unusual—the sound of the fans.”
Dancer With a Character
In addition to stories and legends that span China’s history from the Yellow Emperor to the prosperous Tang Dynasty and subtle Song Dynasty, Shen Yun’s mini-drama pieces also include ones that depict modern China, such as the injustice Falun Dafa practitioners face amid persecution under the Chinese Communist Party.
Mr. Wang has assumed the role of a practitioner of the traditional meditation practice a number of times, including in a closing piece, Before Disaster, the Divine Is Rescuing.
“When I am in the role, I want to convey to the audience that Falun Dafa is upright and that the Chinese regime is persecuting the practice,” Mr. Wang said. “We want to allow the audience members to become aware of what goes on in this persecution. I think it is nice to have that as part of our program.”
Once unfamiliar with the almost lost dance form and the associated legends and tales, Mr. Wang has distinguished himself with his persistence, earnestness, and pursuit of perfection.
Mr. Wang remains down-to-earth and true to himself, with his fellow colleagues praising his hardwork and honest qualities. Even nowadays, Mr. Wang spends about 20 hours per week on training and some 25 hours on rehearsals.
And in a rare performing arts company that values inner character as much as talent, Mr. Wang said he wishes to continue dancing with Shen Yun. “I enjoy being part of this group. This company is very special to me. Everyone in this group puts in a lot of effort. I think doing what I am doing now is very meaningful.”
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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