WELLINGTON, New Zealand—Straight from Australia and continuing the Oceania-leg of its 2013 world tour, Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company opened at St. James Theatre this evening, Feb. 5.
Former coastguard at N.Z. Search and Rescue, Susan Stirling, also a former dancer who was among the appreciative audience, found the classical Chinese dance and music presentation “phenomenal,” she said.
“Absolutely breath-taking, colourful, they executed such elegance, tenacity. The men were absolutely strong, the strength shone through. The story-telling … just beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”
Sophisticated dance techniques, an orchestra joining East and West instruments, beautiful costumes, and a stunning back drop—this is Shen Yun at first glance. But digging deeper, one discovers a sea of traditional Chinese culture, the company website says. Mortals and divine beings merge on stage as one. Principles such as benevolence and justice, propriety and wisdom, respect for the heavens, and divine retribution, all come to life, washing over the audience.
“Splendidly executed with beauty, poise, something that everyone must see in order to actually find and feel,” Ms. Stirling said. “If you’re a dancer you’d actually be able to feel the beauty, the warmth, and also the timing. The execution of it was choreographed beautifully, and for the scenery at the back, for the scenery the dancers come through into a reality that just flowed,” she said.
With state-of-the-art graphics technology, Shen Yun’s digital-backdrop team creates vividly animated settings, extending the stage and transporting the audience to a world where heaven and earth are one, the website explains.
“The orchestra, what they did how they came together, they came together beautifully, the music, the timing, it was just so beautiful. The backdrops, where so fitting with the story-telling, and dancing, it just came together so well. It was picturesque, and the dancers just flowed with the picture, and they came together as if it was one,”
Through a couple of story-based dances, Shen Yun tells the story of good versus evil in today’s China—the communist regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice.
“It’s a shame that the performance can’t take place in their own homeland. But for it to come out and spread through dance, and with the backdrop to bring it all together, I would say those who are in China would be missing a great deal,” Ms. Stirling said. “The message that came across to me was tolerance, love, divinity, and trying to actually stand up for what really should be allowed to be performed in their own country.”
Ms. Stirling said the situation in China was “such a sad, sad story,” and she understood the persecution being exposed through the performing arts.
“I can completely understand, but at the end of the day, I consider myself very lucky and others that are not in China, but around the world, to be able to have the opportunity of actually viewing such beauty, the elegance and love—also the passion that shone through.”
Having Christian beliefs herself, Ms. Stirling sensed a “strong message” of spirituality conveyed throughout the evening’s program.
“What they were conveying came through very strong, and I think it needs to be world-spread. Unfortunately, I don’t think that China is really embracing that, but maybe, just maybe, it will happen in the future. The message needs to be spread and even though Shen Yun has only been going for seven years, I hope it goes for another seven years and much stronger, and into the future.”
She felt “freedom” was perhaps the strongest part of the message for her.
“Trying to break away from old ties, and allowing one another to be able to express themselves in a more wider variety; in dance, in education, and allowing new ideas to unfold. Listen to the younger generation, not fighting one another, and … I think there’s just so much I’ve like to say but it’s trying to stick to the point.”
Ms. Stirling said word of mouth is the best way to reach many people.
“This is now 2013 and time has to change … and allow the younger ones to really embrace what’s out there, and allow their [Chinese] culture to grow too. Just like we are allowing our culture to grow, and education is very important, as well as [performing arts], most definitely,” Ms. Stirling said.
Many of her friends who saw last year’s performance told her about this year’s performance.
“I’m so glad that I actually took the opportunity, and by all means, I’ll be passing on the word. No doubt others will be taking that opportunity too. I know, because my nephew and niece will be coming with me next year.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Raiatea Tahana-Reese.
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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