MADISON, Wisc.—Richard Monette treated Brenda Sorenson to tickets to see Shen Yun Performing Arts New York company for her birthday. “When I saw the theme about the Creator and God—and all cultures sort of have those themes of oppression, revolution and some sort of glorious rebirth—now that we have sort of a global consciousness … going on, this sort of performance really hits home. And I knew that she would like that part of it,” he said.
Mr. Monette and Ms. Sorenson saw Shen Yun, a company dedicated to reviving 5,000 years of divinely inspired civilization at Overture Center for the Arts on Tuesday, May 7.
Classical Chinese dance is at the heart of Shen Yun, and its grace often speaks to theatergoers. In speaking of the dancers, Mr. Monette said, “They’re wonderful—the small detailed movements with the beautiful long gowns. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell that they were moving. They’re sort of floating across the stage—just really beautiful.”
Mr. Monette, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, made some interesting comparisons of classical Chinese dance to ballet: “I think it was wonderful,” he said of classical Chinese dance. “American ballet has become full of muscle and power and big moves and this was full of refinement and detail and paying attention to careful moves. I really enjoyed it.”
He spoke about the costumes in a similar way. “The costumes are colorful. American costumes in ballet have become tight—showing off big muscles, and you know it’s all about these powerful moves. Here the costumes were—seemed like they were intended to help the movements be flowing together, and just sort of soft and subtle. Very nice,” he said.
For Ms. Sorenson, who also called the performance wonderful, thought the evening was magical. “Not having had much exposure to classical Chinese dance, … it was fantasy. Like what Richard said: refinement. The costumes were beautiful and flowing. It was very magical.”
The colors of costumes “were beautiful,” she said. “They were combinations I would never have seen, but they were glorious together, and I think that they added to sort of almost, this magical world.
They weren’t colors that we might see every day. So it sort of supported that fantasy in combinations that were very whimsical, and I think it really made it appear to be very much of a fantasy, but still very much like the culture might be.
“I think those were colors that although they were bright and brilliant, they’re definitely in nature and I think they probably strive to find the colors that were hopeful and optimistic in nature. Not just the bland and boring but the ones that were truly … adding to that refinement and fantasy.”
Through classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun brings legends, myths and actual Chinese history to life through mini-dance dramas.
“It’s nice to see the culture be able to draw on thousands of years and to bring it forward, to put it into classical dance,” Mr. Monette said.
“I mean I think we got a full picture of Chinese culture, from thousands of years ago to today, with all of the sort of tragedies and the growth, sort of maturity stories, the hero stories,” he said.
Ms. Sorenson enjoyed the humor in some of the stories. “What really surprised me was that it was also very playful. And I hadn’t thought about that really from the Chinese culture. … So that was really a nice surprise,” she said.
What surprised Mr. Monette was the digitally animated projections on the backdrop: “Even though it was classical, I have to say that the thing I liked best was the interacting with the high tech, with the screen behind it.”
“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 states.
Reporting by Teresa Yin and Sharon Kilarski
Shen Yun performs in Madison again Wednesday, May 8, before moving on to Chicago for Mother’s Day weekend, May 10-12.
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.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.