WASHINGTON—Many aspects of Shen Yun Performing Arts staged at The Kennedy Center Opera House on Jan. 23, had Ted Kingsley intrigued.
“I was very impressed with the show, didn’t know what to expect,” the corporate lawyer said after seeing the New York-based company show for the first time. “It was a spectacular visual presentation.”
Mr. Kingsley was pleasantly surprised by the Shen Yun Orchestra's fusion of modern Western and ancient Chinese music that created a timbre he’d never heard before.
“I thought the orchestra was really rich,” he said. “I didn’t know there was going to be live music, so I was very pleased with that. It was a surprise to me in many ways. Very interesting, I enjoyed it.”
All pieces are original compositions trademarked by Shen Yun each designed to match perfectly a dance at hand to subtly integrate with digitally-enhanced backdrop scenes.
Mr. Kingsley lived in Taiwan for two years when he was younger as his father worked there.
He said he realized from the show he “knew so little before about Chinese culture.”
“I’m overwhelmed by the diversity of ethnic diversity on the mainland; even on the island. I think there is quite a lot of diversity," he said. "The history of China is long and overwhelming in a lot of way-there is so much I don’t know and so much I’m amazed by … ”
Story-based dance is integral to a Shen Yun performances, using a wide range of themes derived from ancient heroic legends of the past, to courageous tales of our day. Gorgeously costumed dancers are choreographed to move seamlessly from one program to another, vocalists and solo musicians, as well.
At times, Mr. Kingsley was confused about how ancient China’s divinely-inspired cultural heritage could have a bearing on the persecuted spiritual practitioners of Falun Dafa, depicted in two sketches, Nothing Can Block the Divine Path and Astounding Conviction.
“Well, it’s hard to explain. I was very confused by-obviously the Falun Dafa-I wasn’t expecting that. So the messaging and the lyrics, I mean I picked up some notions of reincarnation and [China’s 5000-year] history, of heavenly beings populating the earth, but I don’t know how that relates to Chinese culture. All that’s new to me," he said
But he felt an empathy, all the same. “Some of the stories, I mean, the stories about suppression: the suppression of religion, that was very familiar because they are of current events, I’m very aware of that going on, so that kind of resonated,” he said.
Mr. Kingsley was also intrigued by the Shen Yun Orchestra, which fuses Chinese instrumentation with a Western orchestra as its basis. The music goes along with the dances and stories.
“[The orchestra] sounded classical Western but then there was a lot of other elements. I don’t know how much of that was traditional. … I’m just interested in how similar it is to Western dance and music, and a lot of the scores was written by this company for this performance," he said.
With reporting by Frank Gong.
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will perform in Washington, D.C. until Jan. 24, and then be in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 26-27.
For more information, please visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org