BUENOS AIRES—The dancers of Shen Yun Performing Arts are “rotating towards the divine,” according to a former dancer and dance teacher, who is currently principal at a dance school.
“If one rotates in a certain way, looking for the divinity, and if you turn the opposite way, you are doing it in the profane sense, in the earthly sense, and all the dancers are rotating towards the divine,” Laura Gatto said after seeing Shen Yun at the Teatro Ópera Citi on Dec. 19.
The technique and the precision of the performance caught the attention of Ms. Gatto who started dancing when she was four years old. But what really connected with her was the happiness of the performers.
“There is not even one of all the artists that doesn’t devote his soul to this message that you want to transmit—recovering the values of old China,” she said. “It is very strong, you can tell.”
Shen Yun, based in New York, traverses the globe each year transmitting ancient Chinese culture, one that was once lost under decades of communist rule, the company’s website claims.
Continuing, it states, “Shen Yun presents colorful and exhilarating performances of classical Chinese dance and music. A performance by Shen Yun is a presentation of traditional Chinese culture as it once was: a study in grace, wisdom, and the virtues distilled from the five millennia of Chinese civilization.”
“In a collection of short pieces, audiences travel from the Himalayas to tropical lake-filled regions; from the legends of the culture’s creation over 5,000 years ago through to the story of Falun Dafa in China today; from the highest heavens down to the dusty plateaus of the Middle Kingdom.”
Ms. Gatto found a profound spirituality within the performance and its messages, and said she read about Shen Yun’s mission and aspirations.
“We really have to overcome a tendency towards the earthly things,” she said. “We have got to grow towards the search of beauty, and beauty will lead us to the divine.”
Ms. Gatto sees respect and other values in the traditional Chinese culture that need to be seen again in the modern world. Her eyes shone as she spoke.
‘Everything is Magnificent’
While classical Chinese dance forms the core of a Shen Yun performance, the dancers are adorned with handcrafted costumes and accompanied by tenors and sopranos, digital backdrops, and an orchestra that combines both classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments.
“The truth is that it is very exciting,” said Mariano Balloni, a student at the National University of Arts and a dancer in La Plata Ballet. “The stories—this is the story of China—the orchestra and singers, everything is magnificent.”
“We saw, that they are great artists, truly,” he added. “Those people up in the stage in this performance are amazing, really.”
Typically on stage at one time are at least a dozen dancers, constantly interacting with each other.
“It’s amazing—really on stage they are like one person,” said Mr. Balloni. “It’s like a moving body.”
All the pieces struck Mr. Balloni, giving him a thrilling experience, he said. But several pieces based on events taking place in modern China made his heart ache, especially as he used to live in Cuba.
These several dances depict the persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Dafa by the ruling communist regime in China.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is guided by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, according to Shen Yun’s website, and it has helped over a hundred million Chinese people find peace in “the essence of traditional Chinese culture—Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist schools of thought.”
But these principles are “in stark contrast” with the Chinese Communist Party’s ideology, leading the regime to begin a brutal persecution against Falun Gong practitioners starting in 1999.
“But Falun Gong practitioners have held firm to their beliefs and have continued to expose countless injustices through peaceful means,” explains the website. “Their spirit of compassion and tolerance manifest the very essence of China’s 5,000-year-old divine culture.”
“I’m sorry that human beings cannot be free to cultivate the belief that everyone feels they have inside,” said Mr. Balloni. “The communist regime is usually pretty inflexible in that sense.”
Overall the performance stirred many emotions, said Lina Anoso, a fellow student at the university.
“A wonderful show,” she said. “Gorgeous.”
Reporting by Julia Cortes and Zachary Stieber.
New York-based Shen Yun has three companies that tour the world each year on a mission to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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