A Day In The Life Of A Professional Dancer In A Traditional Chinese Company

shen yun dance coYuxuan Liu performs with the Shen Yun Company.

Photo: © 2011 Shen Yun Performing Arts

Yuxuan Liu never had the opportunity to experience the rich culture of her Chinese heritage while growing up. Her parents moved from Europe, to Canada, to the United States, never staying in one place very long.A staple of her childhood was dancing. The piano, painting, and other hobbies came and went, but the art of dance remained.

“I slowly became interested in classical Chinese dance, and through that dance I learned about my own culture,” said Liu, who is 23 and is currently living in New York City.

In 2006, Liu joined the New York-based Shen Yun Company, which performs Chinese classical dance, as well as instrumental and singing numbers. Shen Yun 2012 will be performing at the David H. Koch theatre at Lincoln centre Jan. 11-15.

The dances Shen Yun performs depict 5,000 years of Chinese dynasties and legends. Vibrant costumes, 3-D sets, a full orchestra and 38 dancers all help tell the tale of the Monkey King, a journey to the west, and other historic moments through out Chinese history.

For Liu, in order to be on stage at 7 p.m., the day starts 12 hours earlier.

This is Yuxuan Liu. She is a principal dancer and performs in 13 dances every time Shen Yun puts on a show.

On a day with a nighttime performance, Liu and her fellow dance members will start class around 9 a.m., learning to perfect the techniques of Chinese classical dance.

The season runs from December to May. During that time, nearly all of the dancers' time is dedicated to practicing or performing.

Every year the dance changes, so learning to perform the techniques with precision is key.

After class, the group gets lunch. The Company travels around the world, so the food can range from classic Chinese to spaghetti in Italy, Liu said.

After lunch, Liu and the other dancers walk through the entire dance on the new stage to make sure the spacing is right for the live performance.

Then, the group gets dinner.

When starting with Shen Yun, Liu had to learn to do her own stage makeup, hair, and how to do the quick costume changes between numbers.

Prior to the show, the company spends about two hours warming up.

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. on weeknights.

The orchestra makes up a large portion of the 100 people in the Shen Yun Company.

This year's sets are 3-D, adding 21st century technology to the show about traditions.

The day ends back at home. Liu lives with other girls in the company, and said sometimes its hard to sleep because they stay up and chit-chat about the day.

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