In one evening on stage, Jun Zhu “Lily” Wang is a graceful lady of the court now, and, after a change of costume, a noble female general later.
A native of Chengdu, China, Ms. Wang started training to be a dancer at the age of 3. She has been given the opportunity to perform in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts while studying at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts. As a dancer playing many lead roles, she has brought to life a broad range of roles for audiences to enjoy all over the world.
During the 2012 season, she played the title role in the dance “Mu Guiying Commands The Troops.” Mu Guiying is a character of Chinese legends, a lady who married into the Yang family, in which the men were generals defending the empire. When her husband was killed, she rose above the profound loss to take command and lead the troops to victory.
Ms. Wang notes that usually female dancers in classical Chinese dance perform the soft and feminine roles, but playing Lady Mu Guiying in this acclaimed classical Chinese dance piece required embodying exceptional strength and a commanding presence.
She researched the story on the internet and read books to prepare for the role. The crux of the role, says Ms. Wang, is that Lady Mu Guiying was in deep grievance, but was determined to get over the sadness due to a sense of responsibility for the country and the troops and their families—“you can really sense the strength in her when she got over her hardships and led the troops to victory, bringing honor to the family and the country.”
One special aspect of classical Chinese dance is the “bearing” which is what enables skilled dancers such as Ms. Wang to portray such feelings on stage.
In contrast to the strength required to play Mu Guiying, the Shen Yun piece “Ladies of the Manchurian Court” requires grace, elegance, and refined movements. Ms. Wang played the role of one of the princesses dancing on the stylized shoes of the time, with three-inch high platforms. Not only did the dancers master walking in the shoes, but they became elevated artists, balancing on one foot for various dance poses.
“We have to portray the feelings of the 17th century Manchurian court” in this piece, said Ms. Wang.
Light on Feet and Lighthearted
In several lighthearted Shen Yun dance pieces, female dancers display dexterity with large, colorful handkerchiefs. The dancers twirl, shake, and toss them, said Ms. Wang, lighting up with a smile as she described the techniques.
In one audience-pleasing sequence in some dance pieces, dancers fling the handkerchiefs up and away, perform a walkover or other flip technique while the spinning handkerchief is aloft, land on their feet, and, as the handkerchief boomerangs down and back, catch it with one hand—all in less time than it takes to read this sentence!
When performing in practicum, Ms. Wang portrays characters in traditional stories, wearing traditional costumes, and dancing to traditional Chinese instruments. She said that, through her performances on five continents, she wants to show audiences “the essence of 5,000 years of culture and moral values of traditional Chinese culture.” She mentioned, as examples, the values taught by the traditional Chinese meditation practice of Falun Dafa: truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
For audience members, she would like them to realize that Shen Yun’s performances conveys such traditional values, and that “this is what you’re waiting for.”
Since the time of her preparations begun at an early age, Ms. Wang has been waiting to bring the joys of Chinese classical, folk, and ethnic dance to people of all backgrounds across the globe.