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Artist Profile: Mr. Andy Shia

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Mr. Andy Shia (Courtesy of Shen Yun Performing Arts)

An Australian native, Andy Shia possesses a cheeky humor you wouldn’t suspect from his contemplative manner. Praised for his versatility in character acting, Mr. Shia began performing in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts in 2007. During his time with Shen Yun, he has played the comical role of Pigsy from Chinese folklore, as well as a modern-day Chinese cop driven by hatred.

“As soon has he gets on stage, he captures the attention of the audience,” says choreographer Tia Zhang. “He’s great in those character roles, and he’s very adorable on stage.”

Adorable, yes, when he’s wearing a fat suit and a pig snout in a piece about the legendary Monkey King, in which a rag-tag trio consisting of a monkey, a pig, and an ogre protect a monk on a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage. For two years, Mr. Shia has been honing the role of the lustful and gluttonous Pigsy.

“When I first got the part, I spent two weeks just finding the right expressions,” he said. He watched the movie Journey to the West to deepen his understanding of the classic Chinese novel from which Pigsy springs. Watching him perform, Mr. Shia brings this mythical character to life, and no matter how foreign the story is to a Chinese literature novice, he makes Pigsy instantly loveable.

But Mr. Shia can also be not-so-cute when he’s playing the part of a communist crony on the hunt for Falun Dafa practitioners, whose lives are endangered by a brutal crackdown in China today.

“I have to feel all this hate. The movements and expressions have to convey this evil perspective and malice,” said Mr. Shia, himself a Falun Dafa practitioner. “It’s definitely a very contradictory feeling, to portray all this hatred.

“It surprises even me,” Mr. Shia said. “I didn’t know I had this other half.”

In several of the pieces depicting persecution by police, Mr. Shia and other dancers playing the perpetrators wrathfully encircle their victims. “In one piece, I have on a red glove, and stab a practitioner from the back,” he said. These pieces shed light on the consequences of good and evil and the fact that the Chinese Communist Party is persecuting people for their faith.

Currently, Mr. Shia appears in almost all of the dances in which male performers appear. From a playful young monk to an imperial warrior, to a peasant farmer, Mr. Shia does it all.

“To me, changing characters is just like a change of clothing. You just become the moment.”

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