NEW YORK—Leonid Kozlov, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, was impressed with the artists of Shen Yun Performing Arts, as he returned to his old stage at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on Friday night.
“I have always been fascinated by the beauty of [Chinese dance],” said the star who has toured worldwide and is now director of his own Kozlov Dance Studio. He talked about Shen Yun’s “very wonderful qualities,” in how the company performed classical dance and also interpreted folk dance.
Mr. Kozlov was accompanied by his wife Adriana, now also a ballet instructor at the couple’s Dance Studio, and a former lead ballerina in a long list of productions, including The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
“I enjoyed it very much. The music and the costumes, the instruments, the story telling—very beautiful,” said Mrs. Kozlov, who has mastered not only ballet, but jazz, folk dance, and acting.
Mr. Kozlov’s distinguished career began in Moscow, but continued in the United States, after he defected from the Soviet Union in 1979. Because of his background, he said he could relate to the difficulties of freedom of expression that classical Chinese dancers face under the Chinese communist regime.
The New York-based Shen Yun Performing Art’s is forbidden from performing in mainland China by the communist regime. “I have really got that freedom, which I hope the Chinese dancers will get too,” said Mr. Kozvol, empathizing with their plight.
Mr. Kozvol has commented on how his new life in the United States gave him so many more opportunities, not only to travel the world, but also to find freedom of artistic expression through dance. “Art is impossible without freedom,” he said.
He did note, however, that even under Russian communist’s rule, things like folk dance were permitted a presence on stage.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, the regime sought to destroy all forms of traditional beliefs and culture. It is Shen Yun’s mission to revive these ancient traditions.
“The cultural revolution has been such an extreme. Whatever I’ve heard has been just terrible and I hope they will get rid of that,” said the artist.
He added that he “absolutely” agreed that Shen Yun should be allowed to perform worldwide. “It is the most wonderful way to introduce to people the Chinese history and Chinese people. I love it and I think it is wonderful,” he said.
As the two professional dancers watched the show they were struck by the gentleness of the female dancers.
“I always admire the ladies they are so gentle and feminine,” said Mr. Kozlov.“I think it so colorful, bright and lively. Very energetic you can feel the energy coming off the stage from the dancers and the orchestra as well,” said Mrs. Kozlov.
The couple recommended everyone come watch Shen Yun.
Reporting by Pamela Tsai and Kristina Skorbach.
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will perform at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York City, June 23-26. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org