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201 views • August 28, 2023

Contestant Shares What Drives Him to Compete in NTD's Classical Chinese Dance Competition

NTD News
NTD News
Dancers for Shen Yun Performing Arts aspire to rejuvenate an ancient way of life. Principal dancer Jesse Browde believes a deep understanding of traditional Chinese culture is essential for successfully performing classical Chinese dance. He shares his story and what’s driving him to compete in NTD’s International Classical Chinese Dance Competition this year. "My parents kind of wanted to get me out of the public school system. And so they sent me to a private art school in upstate New York," said Mr. Browde. "It's called Northern Academy of the Arts ... They had three options, say you could be a dancer or a musician. Or you could be an artist as in a drawer or a painter, something like that. I chose dancer, because I had a couple friends in the school, and they kind of pushed me to be a dancer. So it wasn't really out of my own will. I kind of just went along with it because my friends were there. But it was weird ... the longer I spent dancing, the more I enjoyed it, I guess." "And then later the next year, I saw Shen Yun, the 2018 show. And I remember, I'd been watching Shen Yun since I was a kid, right, but this was the first time that I kind of actually understood the dances, especially the story ones. I almost cried a couple times that night. And I remember going home that night and I wanted to be a Shen Yun dancer. But as a 14-year-old." Mr. Browde was moved to become a dancer by the profound beauty of classical Chinese dance that many Shen Yun theatergoers are so familiar with. What has this ancient art form taught him? "I learned a lot about the culture, actually, behind China. And before it was pretty much almost destroyed in the Cultural Revolution, it was 5,000 years of it. And it's way more profound, way beyond anything that I had ever imagined or experienced, learning in the West. Because in the West, we learned about our history, Romans, the Greeks, and stuff like that, but ... you can't even compare to what Chinese culture is. And I guess to me, classical Chinese dance is a way to spread this culture to the world and these traditional values that so many people once held dear to them before the Communist Party took over, stuff like the Confucian values, 'ren yi,' 'li zhi xing,' right? It changes you as a person almost, like if you know these, if you get to learn these values, ... it changes you." Students of classical Chinese dance study traditional Chinese culture and values to enrich their art. Here’s what Mr. Browde has to say about this fusion of form and philosophy. "A lot of basic movements in classical Chinese dance are derived from a lot of principles in Chinese culture. For example, 'yin yang ping heng,' the balancing of opposites, that is huge in classical Chinese dance. As well, for example, it's not just the balancing of strength and softness. It's also slow and fast, left and right, up and down. Almost everything in Chinese classical dance is kind of based off of this principle. I guess through classical Chinese dance as well because what we portray on stage in Shen Yun, we have a lot of stories about ancient Chinese heroes, ancient Chinese culture, ancient Chinese life. You can't really do this with any other art form. Only classical Chinese dance can really express what's behind, what classical Chinese culture truly is." "Ancient Chinese culture is definitely a divinely inspired culture, right? And then when you believe that there's this sort of higher being that's bestowing these gifts upon you, sort of, it kind of humbles you in a way ... it humbles you a lot, actually, because you know ... that everything that I have, everything that basically I stand for is given to me almost. Sort of like in the Renaissance, all of the paintings and sculptures, they're all glorifying the divine right? And that's sort of what we're doing here at Shen Yun. It's, again, passing this divinely inspired message to the audience around the world." And how has studying classical Chinese dance changed Mr. Browde as a person? "I learned to be more humble, I guess, and more grateful for everything I have
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