THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.—“It is very special. It’s a unique experience, very active. There is a beauty and elegance to this.”
So said Harold Burke, who was in the audience of the world-acclaimed Shen Yun Performing Arts, staged at The Fred Kavli Theatre on Jan. 23.
“It is trying to capture the spirituality of traditional literature and art, and I think that is very beautiful,” he said.
Based in New York, Shen Yun is a world-renowned classical Chinese dance and music company, formed in 2006, to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture through the performing arts.
Using classical Chinese dance and ethnic or folk dances, the performance features a collection of stories or mini-dramas depicting scenes from China’s divinely-inspired culture.
“We are used to seeing the fast dancers, but I think the sheer flowing of the gowns, the flowing of the scarves is very special. I think we need more of that,” said Mr. Burke.
Speaking as a professor at Pepperdine University, specializing in psychopharmacology, clinical neuropsychology, and physiological psychology in the graduate programs, Mr. Burke said that in terms of brain function, if he took an EEG (Electro-Encephalogram) of a number of the people in the audience, “they were probably in a very calm state.”
“I think this show is needed. I’m a doctor, as I told you, and it’s almost needed medicine for a pretty wounded country in a lot of respects. So I respect what this company is doing. I respect it.”
“The symbolism of wisdom, spirituality, suffering, reincarnation, and trying to live a life that has meaning for helping the world, comes through in the whole show with a lot of quintessentially beautiful, flowing, aesthetic movements. I think that’s really important,” Mr. Burke continued.
His late wife would have been in her late 60s by now, he said. “She understood great Chinese literature and this kind of Chinese dancing and the 5,000-year-old culture that China is. … It’s important for all of us, a Westerner like me who has never been to China, to really grasp this kind of beauty that was seen in this show, and what it really means.”
“This show is not about fear. It’s the opposite of that. It’s about trust, working hard, perseverance, endurance, eternity, and wisdom, and I think that’s a really important message, and I think that comes across.”
He saw depth in Shen Yun’s story dances and music. “I think the meaning is the transcendent aspect of life. That if you’re focusing on eternity, focusing on trying to bring wisdom to the earth, focusing on trying to realize what you’re meant to do, or what your path in life is, and you’re trying to do something for the world and for other people. That came across in the very beginning. Beauty is an eternal, transcendental quality and I think the show did that.”
Mr. Burke played in the Santa Fe opera for about 15 years, was a professional French Horn musician for a number of years, and played the piano.
“So I love great art, I love the transcendence of music and dance and great culture. This comes across in the show. The flowing aspect is really important. I liked it very much.”
“I am used to strong singers, but they are quite special,” Mr. Burke said of the Shen Yun trio of vocalists.
The Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra blends the sounds of both East and West, masterfully combining Western instruments with Eastern instruments, including the erhu, dizi, pipa, and suona.
“I like the live orchestra, because I am a traditionalist, and I think the performances should be done with a live orchestra. I like that.”
Inspired by traditional attire, from emperors and generals to the everyday clothing of the many ethnic communities, the creation results in a spectacular stage effect.
“The costumes were exquisite. … The blending with the scenery in the background was extremely clever. I thought, for sure, the flowing was quite amazing.” Mr. Burke observed.
Mr. Burke urged others to see the show. “I would recommend it to people to go see it and experience it. Just the sheer flow and the calmness that one feels.”
Reporting by Flora Ge and Masha Savitz.
Shen Yun Touring Company will be at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 25 -- 27. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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