Ballet takes more than just physical strength


JAM Productions


Tia Zhang, a Chinese dance instructor at the Toronto National Ballet School, believes dance is more than just entertainment.



For Tia Zhang dance is much more than entertainment.

The veteran Chinese dance instructor at the Toronto National Ballet School and founder of the Lotus Performing Arts Troupe sees ballet as the ultimate teacher of self-discipline.

"Ballet is about hard work, determination, physical strength and a healthy diet. Above all it involves intense self-discipline, an undying love of creativity, and an insatiable passion for what you do," says Zhang. "Ballet dancers drink plenty of water. They exercise and train for countless hours to build a self-disciplined, strong and limber body and mental state."

Beyond the physical workout Zhang finds her style of dance, which is rooted in Chinese tradition, is also about reclaiming pride in one’s culture and building a strong sense of community.

Zhang has been dancing for over 30 years and credits much of her appreciation for arts and culture to the disciplined art form. "What began in my youth as a pass time quickly became my passion, my profession and the tool I’d later use to connect so many other people to their cultural heritage," says Zhang.

She is known for her wide range of knowledge of Chinese dance traditions, including folk and court styles. She has a specialty for bringing history to life by choreographing shows that depict historical icons. As an advocate for human rights issues both locally and abroad, Zhang is also a practitioner of Falun Gong. According to the Falun Dafa Organization, Falun Gong — also called Falun Dafa — "is an ancient form of qigong — the practice of refining the body and mind through special slow, gentle movements, exercises and meditation."

Falun Gong goes beyond physical rejuvenation as it is also said to "help create a better state of mind for those who practise it as it is deeply rooted in Chinese traditions of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance," says Zhang.

But in China, Falun Gong is grounds for persecution under the communist regime of Jiang Zemin, and Zhang is working hard to change that.

"Celebrating Chinese arts, spirituality, and meditation practices goes against the regime of control … often associated with that of the communist powers in China," says Zhang. "As an instructor of dance it is my duty to showcase the authentic Chinese culture. Our artistic culture was destroyed by communism. It is time to rebuild it."

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