MESA, Ariz.—Shen Yun opened at the Ikeda Theater on Thursday evening, bringing China’s rich cultural heritage to life on the stage through the medium of dance and music.
“It’s very accessible. The music just resonates, so it’s not something you have to go see many times to appreciate it,” said Alan Ferayorni, an IT executive. “It’s very comfortable and easy to enjoy.”
The mission of Shen Yun is to revive China’s 5,000 years of culture, using classical Chinese dance and music to illustrate and illuminate stories and legends from the world’s oldest continuous culture.
In addition to dance and music, an animated digital backdrop is employed to bring the different scenes to life, evoking different geographies or eras of China.
“The way they combined the dance with the video and the film in the back was really quite creative, I’d never seen anything quite like that before,” said Mr. Ferayorni.
The music is provided by the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra, and every Shen Yun show features a full orchestra. But they may not make themselves obvious by tuning while the audience is in the theater—surprising some of the guests.
“It was interesting because when I came in I didn’t realize there was an orchestra, because they were so quiet,” said Mr. Ferayorni. “This orchestra, a very large orchestra, was completely silent until the beginning of the show when they started playing. I said ‘Wow! There’s live music!’ I didn’t even realize that there was going to be live music, and they’re fantastic.”
The orchestra is unique in its blending of both East and West—with the melodies often played by Chinese instruments, and a Western orchestra providing the harmonic backdrop.
“I like the melodies, it’s different, but not way different,” said Mr. Ferayorni. “I like it, the way it’s all balanced together with the aspects of the East and West together, it’s very nice.”
Along with dance pieces supported by the Shen Yun Orchestra, interspersed throughout the show are operatic pieces, sung in Chinese with the lyrics shown on screen, along with English translations.
“Breaking up some of the dance pieces with the music, with the soprano and the tenor, kind of balanced everything out,” he said.
Another aspect of the show that catches the attention of many audience members are the costumes—full of rich colors and textures, and different for each piece.
“The costumes were wonderful, so it was quite an enjoyable experience,” said Mr. Ferayorni.
Mr. Ferayorni came with his wife, who used to work in investments, and she found one piece that particularly moved her, about the persecution of Falun Gong in China today. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice rooted in traditional Chinese culture, but has been subject to intense persecution by China’s regime.
“It really touched me,” she said of the piece. “The power of the human spirit!”
Reporting by Jenny Liu and Ben Bendig.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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