CINCINNATI—Shen Yun Performing Arts graced the stage at the Aronoff Center for the Arts on Friday evening, Feb. 8, enchanting the audience with a display of one of the oldest cultures in existence.
New York-based Shen Yun starts with classical Chinese dance—an art form nearly as ancient as the 5,000 year old culture—and ethnic and folk dance, and accentuates the dance with digital backdrops, vocal soloists, and an orchestra that joins East and West.
Leon Boothe, president of Northern Kentucky University from 1983 through 1996, said the performance was highly entertaining, with the different colors and props used in dancing, such as flowing silk scarves.
Mr. Boothe expanded student housing on campus during his tenure, earning praise from the community and subsequent presidents.
His wife Karen, a retired office manager and a tap dancer, also enjoyed Shen Yun. She said she could see the high level of skill the dancers possess.
“They were together all the time, very synchronized, and they did very difficult things,” she said. “When they would put their legs up—I don’t think people realize how difficult that was to do, but as a dancer, I knew it was difficult. They were excellent.”
Shen Yun’s performance is a set of mini drama dance pieces, less than 10 minutes each, that present the culture of an ethnic minority or a story or legend from China’s vast lore.
“A unique feature of Chinese civilization is that its history has been documented and passed down uninterrupted for 5,000 years, sometimes in vivid detail,” states Shen Yun’s website. “This provides Shen Yun with vast source material, making it possible to revive this ancient culture on a present-day stage.”
Mrs. Boothe said she appreciated the variety in the performance and was also struck by the dancers’ passion. “The audience was deeply touched because they had their hearts in their dancing,” she said.
Further, the seamless use of technology, principally the digital backdrops, creates the illusion of digital characters becoming dancers and vice versa in some of the pieces.
“We were all enchanted with that, how they did that,” said Mrs. Booth.
Having taught Chinese history, Mr. Boothe said coming from the countryside he appreciated the harvest and spring dance, and the presentation of the culture in the performance.
The dances start at the dawn of the civilization and weave throughout the depth of its history and the breadth of the country; several dances touch upon the modern day situation in China, where multiple groups are suppressed under communist rule.
This suppression doesn’t allow Shen Yun to perform in China. The company purveys traditional culture, which the communist regime has tried to destroy.
Yet the dances often have an uplifting moral, which Mr. Boothe connected with.
“Even under adversity, when things are bad, you can still see the good,” he said. “The good-will-prevail type of thing. It’s a good classical story.”
The performance overall helps people understand another culture. “Broaden your mind, broaden your perspective,” said Mr. Boothe. “Understand that there’s another part of the world that needs understanding, and we have a role to play in that.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Zachary Stieber.
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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