Xiao Jiaqi has toured the world with the world-class dance group Shen Yun Art Troupe USA since 2009. In an exclusive interview, she recounts her experiences with the dance group and expresses how it has been an irreplaceable time in her life.
Dancers of Shen Yun have non-stop rehearsals for months on end and engage in many tours globally. Xiao said she rarely has a break. A tight schedule year after year keeps the artist on her toes and without a will of steel, it would seem difficult to endure.
However, she does not consider it too hard and considers herself very fortunate to be part of She Yun.
Shen Yun Art Troupe is committed to reviving the 5,000 years of the semi-divine culture from China. Through their genuinely good performances, the dancers are able to lead the audiences to appreciate the glorious years of Ancient China.
Xiao Jiaqi and the other performers dance in beautiful and delicate garments of silk in rich hues and ornate headdresses from various dynasties and ethnicities.
Female dancers display the ancient Chinese virtues of modesty, prettiness, and grace. Even when offstage, Xiao’s sweet smile reflects the beauty and purity of the young girls’ and ladies of ancient times
Beauty stems from the mind
Dancers on the Shenyun stage vividly convey the delicate grace and charm of ancient Chinese women. The costumes and legends bring out the uniqueness of each Dynasty. Xiao has taken this definition of beauty to heart. “When we dance, elegance is revealed naturally. I think, first of all, one must enrich the inner self,” she said.
Chinese classical dance is closely connected to the ancient spiritual culture and civilization. In those days, people cultivated their character and exercised strict self-discipline. These cultivation disciplines were reflected in different aspects of their lives.
Many of the literati’s classic manuscripts prompt the younger generations to realize that when reading their books it is like seeing the person in real life. The emotions and philosophies in the writings correspond to the characters’ personalities. If literary works can do this, the art of dance can most definitely convey inner truths using the body.
Xiao said, “As a dancer, if you can cultivate a rich character, you would be able to create purer performances and communicate that message to the audience. This is also closely related to an advanced technique called “body rhyme” in Chinese classical dance training. Shen Yun’s official website explains it well, “The body rhyme emphasizes the spirit, breath, intention, personal temperament, and depth of expression. The warmth of Chinese classical dance comes from mastering “body rhyme. “The body rhyme of Chinese classical dance is an outer display of an “inner” dance.”
“It’s not a question of hiding,” Xiao explained. “Classical Chinese dance doesn’t hide anything. One’s personality is revealed through the dance. Touching people’s feelings with an impressibility that comes from within can melt people’s hearts.”
Therefore, in the process of improving her dance skills, in addition to working hard on skills, Xiao has realized many things, improving her mood as she perfects her art.
“Sometimes I’m worried about how others see me, and my performance will have some limitations. For instance, I am afraid to fully express myself.” Xiao said that in the past, she paid too much attention to how other people saw her. She also shared some of her recent revelations. Xiao said, “I am too afraid to make mistakes. Sometimes I believe that others think that I am not good enough. In fact, I have realized that it is best to not be afraid of oneself. One should be confident enough to show what you are to others.”
She found that negative emotions such as fear and worry are unnecessary because she figured that the moment she steps on stage she has already revealed herself. “Only if you aren’t afraid to make mistakes, will you will learn more.” Thus Xiao learned to overcome her fears and face herself which enables her to always try to put her best foot forward. All Xiao really wants to do is be true to herself and others.
Another obstacle that prevented her from progressing faster, was admitting her mistakes.
During practice, a video is recorded to help correct movements. At first, she didn’t want to see herself in the film. Then she thought, “What I should do is to acknowledge where I go wrong and then correct it. There is no limit to learning. Only when you face yourself with all your flaws can you move forward.
Xiao believes that it is good to be humble at all times. “You will learn and get to know more if you admit that you don’t know.”
Although Xiao Jiaqi emigrated from China to Canada with her family when she was only a child, her connection with Eastern culture remained uninterrupted. Her Grandpa often tells Chinese Myths and legends, and she has been aware of ancient culture since early childhood. Even though she was schooled in the West, she never lost her Chinese roots. Xiao wanted to enter the Feitian Academy of Arts to study Chinese classical dance. Its been just over 10 years of dancing with the Feitian Acadamy, she has developed an even deeper connection with Ancient Chinese culture.
Today, as a principal dancer, Xiao yearns to refine herself. She recalled that she had the honor to dance the role of Bodhisattva Guanyin. She realized that it was an excellent opportunity to improve herself and cultivate kindness and compassion in her daily life.
Xiao’s greatest hope is to become more confident and open-minded with a noble attitude. Perhaps, because, of the fact that most of the people Xiao loves and admires have the qualities she would like to have. She really appreciates the golden era of the Tang Dynasty. Xiao adores the chicness of Li Bai’s poetry. The wisdom of the well-known poet Cao Cao’s famous works is something Xiao really admires. Learning to appreciate these broadminded people and their work and everything they stood for not only expands her horizons but also inspires her, Xiao shared.
Cherish the opportunities without regrets
“People are always thinking: what is the meaning of life and what to do when they grow up?” She said she was lucky that she had Shen Yun to help her find her mission in life. “I think I’m especially lucky to be able to be a part of such an important dance group from a fairly young age. “Shen Yun portrays the quintessence of the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. Traditional culture is important because one can learn from history. Everything is repetitive and allowing the audience to experience the meaning and significance of the performance is very comforting.
“I also like the feeling on the stage among the dancers. After seeing the audience when the curtain rises, it feels like I am connecting with them.”
During tours, Xiao admitted that this kind of “connecting” feeling is an important motivation. Xiao said she may feel tired, but when she thinks about that feeling after the opening, she is inspired to cherish every performance opportunity. This kind of mindset encourages her to do her best for the audience and accompanies her through all of her stage life of more than ten years.
After Xiao shared her thoughts and thoughts on the road with Xi Wu, we realized how precious the beauty that Shen Yun has continued to bring to audiences. Those precise dance steps, exquisite skills, tender expressions, and unforgettable feelings are all made by every Shen Yun artist step by step through meticulous tempering, day and night as they spur each other on. After a grueling ten years of training, there is nothing more worthwhile for everyone in Shen Yun to see the audience smiling faces.