COSTA MESA, Calif.—Ann-Marie McClellan, a dance teacher, and her daughter Emma McClellan, a dancer and freshman in high school, were among many enchanted audience members attending Shen Yun Performing Arts this sunny holiday weekend at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
“I’m primarily a classical ballet dancer, but I’ve also done lyrical dance, modern dance, musical theater. I have to tell you … I’ve danced on this stage before, so I have not come here for almost 20 years because it’s like going to work, to go watch dance. This was not work. This was complete pleasure, complete enjoyment. I did not sit and analyze it. It was pure beauty,” Ms. McClellan said.
The mission of New York-based Shen Yun is to bring China’s divinely inspired culture to the world’s people through the universal language of classical music and dance. Intrinsic to classical Chinese dance are the concepts of bearing and form—the beautiful dance movements bring out an inner meaning. For Shen Yun dancers, inner beauty and grace are cultivated along with the outer qualities.
“I loved the joy of the dancers, the artistic expression. The synchronized movements show that they are so well rehearsed and well trained, but mostly that joy coming through. And through that joy, peace, there is a feeling of peace on the stage,” observed Ms. McClellan.
“I did learn that there is that striving for peace, striving for that happiness in life. And it’s very surprising to me that the Chinese people can’t do this in China. It’s very sad for me that they can’t do that, but I’m happy that they’re here to share it with us in the United States where we have the freedom to express ourselves that way.”
She was referring to the fact that something like Shen Yun could not be shown in China today due to the policies of the Chinese communist party which represses the veneration of the divine, the essence of traditional Chinese culture.
With three companies, Shen Yun performs simultaneously around the world preserving and transmitting the 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture.
Mrs. McClellan commented on the state-of-the-art graphics technology of the digital-backdrop, “The backdrop—pure genius. I direct Pacific Theater Ballet, which is a small regional ballet company, and that’s always an issue, backdrop and technical things. Using the plain psyche with the projection going onto the pysche. Pure genius.”
Explaining the pysche Ms. McClellan continued, “It is the white backdrop. Using the projector onto it so you can constantly change your surroundings, your atmosphere, for each piece, like I said, it’s cost effective, it’s absolutely pure genius! I wish I could do that in my productions!”
According to Shen Yun’s website, the “digital-backdrop team creates vividly animated settings, extending the stage and transporting the audience to a world where heaven and earth are one.”
“The piece that stood out was the piece where all the gentlemen danced in green, and it was in a shrine. To me the technique, energy, and artistically the colors, backdrop, everything working together was magnificent.”
“I’m so glad I came, and it was pure entertainment and pure joy. I would recommend this show to anybody and everybody! It was great,” Ms. McClellan giggled.
Echoing her mom’s sentiments, Miss Emma McClellan, who has been dancing for 12 years since she was just two years old, said, “It was gorgeous! It was pure joy to see it all. It was beautiful.”
“The technique is impeccable. Everything is perfect, right on count. You can see that they are so well trained and have so much experience. It’s great,” observed Miss McClellan.
According to Shen Yun’s website, “Other than complete training in the fundamentals, it also entails systematic training in movements and postures, as well as very difficult jumping and tumbling techniques. And so, alongside ballet, classical Chinese dance is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world … and is a dance art form built upon a deep foundation of traditional aesthetics. Classical Chinese dance is rich with expressive power.”
Miss McClellan added, “The feelings, it was so joyful, and then other times it was so sad. The emotions really come through in the motion, it was beautiful.”
Her mother chimed in encouragingly, “I could see you doing this kind of dance, Emma. And I think you’d like to try it.”
“I would love to try it if I could!” Miss McCllellan answered.
Ms. McClellan concluded with her final thoughts on the show: “Exuberance, precise, excellent, entertaining, brilliant!”
Reporting by Albert Roman and Masha Savitz.
Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform in Thousand Oaks at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Jan. 22 and 23, and downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Jan. 25 through 27. Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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