ROCHESTER, NY—Former art teacher Larry Ruth felt as though he was witnessing a canvas coming to life on stage Sunday at Sun Yun Performing Arts.
“The color was beautiful, and then when you put the color in motion, it just added so much more—just wonderful,” he said.
He said the materials of the costumes enhanced the motion of the dance.
Mr. Ruth, a former middle school art teacher, attended the Feb. 17 afternoon matinee at Rochester Auditorium Theatre with his wife Jacque, a retired director of Special Education for Nazareth Academy.
“The whole symphony of color, that was nice,” said Mrs. Ruth, who is also a retired pastor at the local United Methodist Church.
“It sparkled, it was lovely. You almost got to the point where you didn’t see the people, you just saw the colors,” she said.
He said Shen Yun’s colorful costumes and digital effects were enthralling.
Mr. Ruth said that as an art teacher he really appreciated the use of color.
“Just the way it was incorporated, and it moved, it wasn’t static,” he said, adding that the colors were more vivid than other performances he had seen.
“It jumps out at you, very vivid.”
He said the couple was touched by the beauty of the performance and said they could see that other audience members were moved as well.
“It touched us, and judging from the conversation we had with the people around us as we were leaving, it touched them too,” said Mr. Ruth. “I think there’s a lot of people here today that are wishing the [show] could be here longer because they’re going to go tell their friends what they saw.”
“I don’t know if any of the people around us had seen it before but they were just as impressed with it. Delighted,” added Mrs. Ruth.
New York-based Shen Yun is a world-renowned classical Chinese dance and music company. Formed in 2006 by artists from around the world, the company’s mission is to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture.
Mr. Ruth said he adored Shen Yun’s digitally animated backdrops, which interact with the dancers and project dynamic scenes from China’s multifaceted regions and dynasties—adding vivid context to each story-based dance.
“The set designer did a marvelous job with how he chose to present different scenes,” said Mr. Ruth.
He was particularly impressed with the split-second timing between the dancers and the backdrops, which created the illusion that the performers could leap in and out of the screen.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said. “That was very clever.”
Mrs. Ruth was impressed with the scale of the performance, which includes dozens of dancers, a full philharmonic orchestra that features traditional Chinese instruments, vocal soloists, and hundreds of handmade costumes and props.
“I am so glad we got to see it—it was graceful, the color, the stories—there was just so much,” she said, adding the story-based dances were wonderfully diverse.
“It just ran the gamut of emotions from serenity to danger, and little bits of humor.”
“It definitely engaged the audience,” added Mr. Ruth.
Mrs. Ruth enjoyed the expressive range of classical Chinese dance, saying it was graceful, smooth, and ethereal during female performances, yet powerful and strong with the males.
“I love to watch those girls just sort of scoot across the floor without even bouncing,” she said. “They just glided across the floor.”
“And the guys were very dynamic and athletic. It was just very fun.”
A dance titled An Early Spring, featuring female dancers continuously twirling sparkling handkerchiefs as they perform, hinted at the hard work the artists put in, said Mrs. Ruth.
“That takes a lot of practice—that’s just dedication,” she said. “When you can be so precise and so finite, that was just very well rehearsed and it was very effective.”
The traditional Chinese culture and beliefs expressed in Shen Yun’s stories, such as kindness, honesty, and the triumph of good over evil, were universal and resonated, said Mrs. Ruth.
“As humans in general we look for the beauty in life. And this was very well represented—that beauty,” she said.
“There’s just this common thread in all our cultures, its kindness, its love and [the belief that] there’s something more beyond this life. It’s not just this life but there’s more beyond.”
Mr. Ruth said these common values had the power of uniting humanity.
“You watch a production like this, the message it delivers, and you find out that we’re really not so different,” he said.
“When you bring in a different culture and you see these things, it unites us.”
“It’s a good way to connect,” added Mrs. Ruth.
Reporting by Hannah Cai and Justina Wheale.
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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