Toronto Lotus Art Performance Troop Sweeps North America Off its Feet

Li Jia

PureInsight | January 16, 2006

[] With the curtain dropping amidst waves of applause, a group of young ladies dressed in apple green dance costumes in the style of the Chinese Han Dynasty exited the stage gracefully with the last notes of the accompanying Chinese classical music. It was a scene from New Tang Dynasty Television's (NTDTV) 2005 Chinese New Year Gala in Toronto. These ladies are members of Lotus Art Performance Troop. They just finished performing a dance titled, "Gentle Breeze and Graceful Swinging of Sleeves." A lady watched their performance with an intense look and red teary eyes. She is Ms. Zhang Tiejun, Director of Lotus Art Performance Group.

Persevering in Her Goal Despite Challenges at the Time of Establishment
Five years ago, Ms. Zhang Tiejun decided to establish an art performance group. Ms. Zhang was the only Chinese dance professor at Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. With over 40 years of experience as a dance professor, she naturally has developed a unique philosophy of art and teaching.

Ms. Zhang said, "It was my goal to present beautiful, pure, righteous, kind and positive dance to the world. A good dance has the ability to touch the audience and inspire their kind thoughts." Aspiring to spread Chinese traditional culture and giving back to society, Ms. Zhang Tiejun established Lotus Art Performance Group in 2002 to teach traditional Chinese dance. She named the school after the lotus flowers because they are completely impervious to the filthy muddy water they grow in and remain uncontaminated.

At the beginning, the Lotus Art Performance Group was mired in difficulties. The dance troop didn't have a permanent classroom because they lacked funding. To cut down costs, the staff and the dancers had to make costumes, stage props and stage background designs on their own. In addition, Ms. Zhang and her students had to pay for all their travel expenses out of their own pockets.

Dance classroom rental gives Ms. Zhang the worst headache. She has to make frequent calls to find a place for dance instructions and rehearsals to ensure the students' practices. So far they have practiced dances at local community centers, the exercise room in a retirement community, public libraries, activity rooms in apartment complexes, and practice rooms at ballet schools.

Several years have passed since Ms. Zhang first established the group. Because of her iron will and love for beautiful art, Ms. Zhang has led Lotus Art Performance Group to this day. She is the embodiment of a famous saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way."
Parents Grateful for the Education that the Dance Troop Gives to the Dancers in Morality
The young ladies enrolled in Lotus Art Performance Group are about the same height. All of them are slim and pretty. Each has an innocent and elegant demeanor because of the art education, professional dance training, as well as the education in morality and traditional Chinese culture that Ms. Zhang and her staff have given them.

Ms. Zhang puts a lot of emphasis on her students' moral character. She said, "In order to dance well, you must become a moral person first. If you are a depraved person, you cannot possibly give the audience a pure and ethereal feeling in your dance performance. I have been a teacher since I was young. I have taught every imaginable kind of student. In today's complicated society, smoking, drug addiction, drinking and premarital sex have become very common issues among young teenagers, which give parents a lot of headaches. As a teacher, I hope to teach my students more than dancing. I hope to teach them to respect other people and help them become honest, kind people with depth."

Some girls are a little vain by nature. Sometimes they wear exaggerated facial expressions to attract other people's attention. Ms. Zhan tell them, "Don't keep thinking about how beautiful you look and how you want to attract other people's attention or show off your appearance like a vain peacock. You should place more emphasis on your inner peace and inner beauty. You should concentrate on delivering a beautiful feeling through your dance." For those students who act like tomboys, Ms. Zhang tell them about traditional Chinese culture. She would say, "As a girl, you should act like a girl. You should be gentle and graceful in order to manifest the beauty of a lady."

Her students' dispositions, speech and behavior have improved over a period of time. Their upgraded moral standards have naturally melted into their performances, which made the audience feel very refreshed. Many audience members said that they were mesmerized by the beautiful dances but they couldn't explain why. Apparently the dancers' inner beauty, purity and kindness have reached the souls of the audience.

According to Mrs. Wu, a parent of a student, society is becoming increasingly degenerate. Young girls often compete with each other based on what they wear and how they look. It is fashionable for young girls to wear clothes that bare their midriffs or show a lot of skin, to color their hair and to start dating early. As a parent, she is less concerned about her daughter because her daughter knows where to draw the line when it comes to dating, to protect herself when boys make advances, and to respect herself. She feels that her daughter has become more mature and honest after she joined the art troop.

Mrs. Wu said, "Some Chinese parents do not have much facility in English, so their children change the grades on their report cards and lie to them." Mrs. Wu added, "But my daughter never lies to me. She also told me that she disapproves of such behavior. At school her peers often offer her cigarettes, but she always declines. When she sees her peers having conflicts, she does not talk about them behind their backs." Mrs. Wu also said, "I am glad to enroll my daughter in Lotus Art Performance Group. I feel a burden has been lifted off my mind. Now I don't have to worry about her wasting her weekends. It is great that she enjoys taking dance lessons from Ms. Zhang."

Touring North America to Spread Traditional Chinese culture
During the past few years, the Lotus Art Performance Group has actively participated in many events and filled its mission by giving back to the community . From Canadian National Day to Christmas, from middle-class residence areas to retirement homes, from middle schools to college, from Parliament to local governments in Canada, the Lotus Art Performance Group has continuously brought elegant and beautiful Chinese traditional dances to the mainstream Canadian society and helped western society understand the connotations and ambiance of Chinese history and culture. In 2002, the Lotus Art Performance Group was awarded with an Outstanding Volunteer Award from the city government of Toronto. Not long ago, the Canadian government granted its application to become a charitable organization.

Now the Lotus Art Performance Group has become famous for promoting traditional Chinese culture and art. During the past two years, it has been invited by New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) to perform at its annual Global Chinese New Year Gala. An audience member commented after seeing their performance, "I have been living overseas for several years. I truly miss my homeland's five thousand years of glorious history and culture. It is delightful to be able to watch such an orthodox Chinese traditional dance." Another spectator said, "As Chinese people, we are proud to bring the most beautiful and finest art in Chinese history to the world."

This year, 2006, is the third year that the Lotus Art Performance Group has been invited to perform at NTDTV's Global Chinese New Year Gala. They will be touring in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver and four other cities in North America. The young dancers are excited to bring a pure and beautiful visual feast to the audiences.

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