HOUSTON—“You can tell they enjoy telling all the wonderful stories of their heritage,” Urban Souls dance company co-founder Walter Hull said of Shen Yun Performing Arts’ dancers at the Jones Hall for Performing Arts in Houston on Dec. 28.
“They’re awesome,” said Mr. Hull. “Just the commitment and the execution of the movement—they’re well rehearsed.”
Mr. Hull attended the performance with Ms. Marketa Wills, who sits on the board of Urban Souls.
“We’re dance freaks,” said Ms. Wills with a laugh. “I thought it was just so precise, amazing. No one was off by any angle, it was so well-practiced, well-rehearsed, and that came across very easily in watching it.”
“It’s highly professional,” Mr. Hull said of the New York-based company.
Shen Yun dancers are trained in classical Chinese dance. In addition to form and technique—which includes the difficult jumping, twirling, and flipping moves—it emphasizes bearing, or an inner spirit that the dancers need to have to convey the emotions of the characters they portray to an audience.
Ms. Wills said she was drawn in by the female dancers’ grace and vivid costumes.
“I like the femininity of the female dancers, the stepping and the moving and the gliding across the stage, I find that really compelling,” Ms. Hull said. The company puts on a new show every year.
Shen Yun’s costume artists collect countless designs of traditional attire, taking elements from the various divinely inspired dynasties, according to the company website. Likewise, Shen Yun’s stories draw from Chinese civilization’s 5,000 years of rich culture and history.
“It gave you a strong sense of the culture over certain times and how it evolved in different areas and different regions. I enjoyed that,” said Mr. Hull. She said she felt the stories were universal. “I think the stories they told are the kind of cultural stories that you hear from any culture … I enjoyed the history.”
Traditional Chinese culture values principles such as benevolence and respect for the heavens, and Shen Yun’s mission is to reflect and revive these principles through the traditional art forms.
“Everyone’s culture has traditions, and sometimes it’s not so far away from your own culture,” Mr. Hull said.
Mr. Hull said he enjoyed the stagecraft and theatrical aspect of the performance. Shen Yun incorporates an animated digital backdrop with classical Chinese dance and ethnic and folk dances, and a live orchestra that combines Eastern and Western instruments.
“One of the things that stood out to me was how beautiful and how a lot of times the people were inspired by the environment,” Mr. Hull said. The many ethnic dances took audience on a journey from the lush valleys of southern China in The Inspired Dance of the Yi to An Early Spring as flowers bloom through the melting snow in a vibrant dance set in northeastern China.
“The environment was just aesthetically motivating and positive. I paid attention a lot to the images of the different regions. It was just beautiful, and it makes me want to visit, because I could see how that’s visually inspiring.”
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company will be performing in Houston through January 1. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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