MILWAUKEE—A tenor in the Milwaukee Symphony chorus, Zack Beasley truly enjoyed seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company: “I found the show to be very informative, entertaining, very precise. The costumes were beautiful; the music was lovely, and it was just very nice over all.”
Mr. Beasley caught the New York-based company at the Milwaukee Theater on Feb. 19 and said he learned about Chinese culture.
“It just felt like a very, very informative show that gave us insight into the culture and with the little stories [told by the bi-lingual emcees] that came before it, it was very helpful to understand what was going on stage,” he said.
Shen Yun aims to revive China’s 5,000 years of divinely inspired civilization through classical Chinese dance and music. Each short dance, which often tells a story, is supported by a full orchestra composed of both Western and Chinese instruments.
“I really enjoyed the authentic sound of the orchestra pit,” Mr. Beasley said. “It was well balanced. The music went very well with all of the choreography of the dancers.”
Mr. Beasley said that taking in the sound of the orchestra helped him immerse into the culture he was absorbing: “The sounds … give the feel as though you are part of the culture.”
Speaking of the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed instrument, he said: “Because when one thinks of China, for me anyway, that’s one of the first instruments that come to mind, that sort of stringed instrument, that gives the feel of the far East. So the way that is incorporated with all of the dance we feel as though they are bringing you right into the culture. You are really absorbed in every way. Especially with the number of dancers, that are on stage. It really is a very visual impactful presentation.”
Coming from a family of musicians, Mr. Beasley said that they all enjoyed when the emcees introduced the Chinese instruments to the audience followed by the instrument’s sound. “I thought that was incredibly good because as a matter of fact, … we were trained [with] what are certain instruments. Of course being with the symphony, I am familiar with the glockenspiel and all the string instruments, but [not] the far Eastern instruments, that we don’t normally see in the United States. I really wish there was some kind of visual, so you could see the instrument … [and] how it is being played.”
His wish was granted when the erhu soloist appeared. “That was really interesting because then you could actually see how that instrument works, and I have never seen one of those before.”
Mr. Beasley played violin in his youth, so he “was noticing as she’s playing it, the bow was really quite flexible,” he said.
In addition to classical Chinese dance which was presented to the emperors at court, Shen Yun presents ethnic and folk dances that represent some of the more than 50 different peoples of China.
“I got the impression that [China is] a very diverse country. The people in the different regions bring different influences, colors, themes. You get the sense that there are a certain architectural or a agricultural areas, and then the people there had the more, can we say, peasant-type dances, it felt like, versus the emperor dances where you are … in the large palace,” he said, explaining more of what he had learned in the evening.
Reporting by Stacey Tang and Sharon Kilarski.
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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