LOS ANGELES—Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company was greeted by a sold-out audience of theatergoers at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles Jan. 25.
Among those who appreciated the performance was Sharon Dunas, MFT, MD, MPH, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) L.A. County.
“I just see lightness, and I see joy, and I see peacefulness and softness,” said Dr. Dunas after the show.
Established in 2006, New York-based Shen Yun’s mission is to revive China’s 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture through the performing arts.
“This show tonight just reminds me of the awakening of China to its great tradition, and its great history, and it’s great sense of beauty, and its culture,” said Dr. Dunas. “I’ve been in China a couple of times, and much of this culture is not there. It is not present. … .”
Through dance, music, and song, China’s 5,000-year culture is brought to life on stage—visiting dynasties, various ethnic regions, and mystical realms and exploring folklore that has been passed down for thousands of years.
She saw Shen Yun Performing Arts “as a waking-up of the whole nation of China to their glorious past, to bring their past into their future,” said Dr. Dunas, adding that the dance “was light, it was airy.”
The stage, illuminated with brilliant color from the costumes, employs elements of contrast and harmony, as well as from the high tech state of the art background with images of far-away times and places, according to the company’s website.
“I thought the colors [of the dancer’s costumes] were utterly exquisite,” said Dr. Dunas. “And the technology of the colors in the background with the mountains and sunrise and the sunset—and the ballet dancers coming out of the sky, landing on the stage—was quite extraordinary to see.”
Ancient Chinese wisdom teaches that in order to convey true art, the artist must have inner beauty and a pure heart.
“I think the grace and the beauty of the dances and their lightness … the colors … and the designs of their costumes—I hope this kind of art comes back to China,” said Dr. Dunas.
Ancient Culture Missing Within China
China’s ancient culture and traditions have been lost due to the rule of the atheist communist regime over the past several decades, especially since the Cultural Revolution. However, at the heart of China’s culture remains a belief in the divine, which can never be destroyed.
“I have two little grandchildren from Shanghai,” explained Dr. Dunas. “I take them all over Los Angeles, and they’re so grateful to experience another culture that isn’t repressed and isn’t controlling and they can be really expressive.”
Having visited China many times, Dr. Dunas was happy to witness true Chinese culture as shown by Shen Yun, as opposed to what she experienced during her recent travels to the East.
She explained what she saw in Shen Yun’s dancers: “I just see lightness, and I see joy. And I see peacefulness and softness.” She said that she could not find these traits when she was in China.
Dr. Dunas further contrasted Shen Yun’s performance against her experience of China and expressed her hope for Shen Yun to perform inside China.
“That would be my wish: that this show could go to China—every Chinese person gets the opportunity to see it inside of China. That would be my wish.”
Orchestra and Singers Unlike Any Others
The Shen Yun Orchestra is a special blend of Eastern and Western classical instruments, offering an ethereal sound that touches the heart of the audience in an unexplainable and profound way.
“The orchestra was extraordinary. The orchestra—with the Chinese instruments and Western instruments—was just so rich, and so full, and so full multifaceted,” said Dr. Dunas. “I love the orchestra [and] the Western, Eastern brought together. The orchestra is sort of symbolic of how the world should be turning.”
She described the feeling that the performance left her with: “I feel so light right now and so beautiful inside … .”
According to the Shen Yun website, “The fundamental characteristic of Shen Yun Performing Arts vocal soloists, is their use of bel canto vocal technique while singing Chinese lyrics. This means that the singer must grasp the highly difficult technical requirements of bel canto operatic singing while retaining the proper Chinese articulation and diction—today, this is unparalleled.”
Dr. Dunas described the opera singers as “just so beautiful, just so beautiful,” adding, “Their voices were extraordinary.”
Mastery of Traditional Costume
Shen Yun’s costume artists collect countless designs of traditional Chinese dress, ranging from those of emperors, ministers, and generals to the everyday clothing of the common people. They use bright colors to tailor and recreate hundreds of new pieces each season.
The costumes are often highlighted when people speak of their experience watching Shen Yun perform, and Dr. Dunas is no exception. “I just adored all the multi-colors of all the dancers … the bright blue with the orange with the chartreuse with the pink and the ruby red. I loved all those colors mixed,” she said.
If Dr. Dunas were to share with her friends about her experience of Shen Yun, “I would say—don’t miss it! I would say do anything you can to go.”
In closing Dr. Dunas said, “Thank you for bringing it here to the Los Angeles people. I look forward to coming next year.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Maria Banks.
Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform in 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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