From Mongolian dance that requires balancing bowls on top of her head to classical Chinese dance that demands grace along with challenging tumbling techniques, classical Chinese dancer Xiang Ying (Crystal) He has experienced it all.
Ms. He, who grew up in the beautiful West Coast oasis of Vancouver, developed a passion for dancing at a young age. Since auditioning and being admitted into Fei Tian Academy of the Arts in 2007 and performing in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts, Ms. He has not only excelled in classical Chinese dance that has been passed down through China’s rich history, but also the numerous ethnic dances that persist among China’s diverse ethnic groups.
Ms. He, a semi-finalist at the 2010 NTD Television International Classical Chinese Dance Competition, has distinguished herself by being an extremely flexible, enduring, and meticulous dancer on stage. She has also retained the simplicity, purity, and modesty that are rare and precious in an experienced artist.
“Dancing can truly temper a person’s character,” said Ms. He in a recent interview. “I think being a good dancer means being a good listener. You have to pay attention to pointers that others give to you, and if you can take those pointers to heart, you will improve rapidly and possess the capability of becoming a fine artist.”
A Blossoming Career
Fulfilling her dreams, Ms. He has become a fine artist in many ways. Besides being a classical Chinese dancer, Ms. He excels in classical piano, an endeavor she began at age 4. The piano merged into her dance career and gave her better sense of music and rhythm.
In the blooming years that she has spent at Fei Tian Academy of the Arts and performing in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts, Ms. He has toured Asia-Pacific with the company, during which she portrayed roles from fairies and goddesses, to civilians and students.
The most memorable role for Ms. He was a trio lead in The Udumbara’s Bloom, a piece which portrays a rare, sacred Buddhist flower that only blooms once every 3,000 years. Yet for Ms. He, the role was about more than the back flips and the back leg lifts that she had to accomplish, but also the feelings embodied in her movements.
“Classical Chinese dance encompasses 5,000 years of Chinese history, that being the case, using such a dance form to pass on Chinese culture is particularly meaningful,” Ms. He said in her usual clear and crisp voice. “Every movement, every gesture in classical Chinese dance is able to convey unique meanings and feelings that come right from the heart. … I have to remind myself ahead of every dance the particular spirit of the role that I am about to assume.”
In 2011, Ms. He had the opportunity to take on a major lead role in a story-based dance, Our Story.
Our Story is one of Shen Yun’s mini-drama pieces that puts spotlight on China’s contemporary society. Inspired by a true account, the piece follows a beloved teacher whose class is disrupted by state police who take her away for her belief in the spiritual discipline known as Falun Dafa. In the piece, Ms. He played a young student who protests but fails in the face of police violence and is heartbroken from witnessing the injustice her teacher is forced to face.
“I had to put in a lot of emotion for that role,” Ms. He said. “I was a student who was absolutely devastated after my teacher was arrested, and it was an emotion that was hard to capture, but it came with practice.”
A Dream Come True
Despite vigorous training and demanding techniques, the classical Chinese dance system has mesmerized Ms. He with its tastefulness, versatility, and rich history. “I think I chose a very good path to walk on,” she said.
Among her fellow dancers, Ms. He is known for her attention to detail, astonishing flexibility, and unparalleled endurance. Even when suffering from physical pain, Ms. He would persist in her training as much as possible—a rare determination that is precious to any performing arts group.
“I find that in dance, patience is a particularly valuable quality,” said Ms. He. “Stretching can get extremely painful at times, but if one is patient and tolerant, one will be able to get over the pain. Once it is over, it is all good.”
“Classical Chinese dance allows me to extend my inner thoughts and feelings onto stage, some of which would be even hard to convey with words otherwise. I find myself truly happy when I am able to dance. Every time the curtain goes up, I want to show the audience what traditional art is all about, what classical Chinese dance is all about.”
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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