As Kaidi Wu searched for the answer to one of my questions, she bowed her head in thought. Pausing, a smile preceded her unformed words and her eyes twinkled. When she answered in a gentle voice, her passion for dance permeated her words.
During the first part of her life in China, Kaidi Wu studied classical Chinese dance and found her passion. She emigrated to Canada when she was 11 years old and continued her studies under a Canadian teacher. Her passion for dance reached new heights one night in 2008 when she had the opportunity to see Shen Yun Performing Arts in New York. She found Shen Yun to be the highest level of Chinese dance and dedicated her life to reaching that standard. From that moment on, her fate was sealed.
Taste of Life (TOL): How did you get into Shen Yun Performing Arts in New York?
Wu: My parents took me to watch the performance in 2008. After many years of learning classical Chinese dance, I am still fascinated by the classical Chinese dancer’s form and bearing. When the curtain opened on Shen Yun, Wow! I was stunned! What beautiful colors on stage! The dancers’ clothes were particularly beautiful, and their dancing was so elegant. I thought it would be great if I myself could perform on stage with them! Back home, I immediately searched online for the Shen Yun dance school—Fei Tian Academy of the Arts—and applied. I was nearly dismissed in the first interview, because they had very strict criterion and I was not as tall they required.
TOL: Are you up to their standards now?
Wu: I am pleased to say that I indeed grew taller after I came here. Not only taller, I grew to understand the soul and meaning of classical Chinese dance while at Fei Tian Academy. I came to understand wherein lies the “secret” of Shen Yun.
TOL: What secret is that?
Wu: It’s about the inner feeling. Fei Tian teachers always tell us that in order to understand how to perform classical Chinese dance, we need to grasp the rich Chinese cultural heritage first. We need to connect every action, every single movement, and dance like floating clouds or flowing water. It requires us to not only have technical skills, but a deep understanding of history and legends. I gradually came to understand how noble the ancient Chinese people were. It was only because they had the broad minds to love everything in this world, that they could develop such beautiful dance.
TOL: You came to Canada at a very young age, so is this profound Chinese culture difficult for you to absorb?
Wu: No, it isn’t.. I have always been fascinated by traditional Chinese culture and read a lot of historical stories. I still enjoy reading them. I also studied Chinese painting and found similarities between classical Chinese dance and painting. For example, in Chinese painting, a few strokes will give viewers boundless imaginings. Classical Chinese dance can too. A few movements, even a gesture of the fingers, can convey a message. If the audience observes carefully, they will find a lot of very interesting things in these movements.
TOL: You participated in the Shen Yun Performing Arts world tour three times. Are there any programs particularly interesting to you?
Wu: Maybe because of my cheerful character, I prefer the merry ethnic dances. For example, ethnic Miao dance requires us to wear heavy silver jewelry and perform very fast moves. Miao dance techniques are different from normal movements. It’s not easy for us to dance so fast in synchronization. I have to say it’s hard work, but I really like the merry feeling of this dance. And I really want to pass this feeling on to the audience and make everyone feel happy.
TOL: Where in the world are the audiences most enthusiastic?
Wu: All of them are, even the European audiences. I mean, European culture is different from ours, but they still showed interest in traditional Chinese culture. Ours is divine culture and most European classical art represents the divine as well. Apart from Europeans, the most impressive audiences are the Taiwanese. Shen Yun’s popularity in Taiwan went through the roof during our 2011 tour. I think maybe it’s because Taiwan protected more traditional Chinese culture than Communist-ruled mainland China did. So Taiwanese treasure it and are eager to get back the lost 5,000 years of divine culture. Maybe that’s the reason why in such a short time Shen Yun became so popular there. I feel very touched whenever I think about this. Ours is a worthy task no matter how hard we work and I need to make an even greater effort to improve my dance.
Text by Brett Price Photography by Larry Dai