ROCHESTER, NY—Shen Yun Performing Arts left Lisa Critchley, a senior executive for a major real estate company, deeply impressed after its opening night show at the historic Rochester Auditorium Theatre.
“It is amazing and breathtakingly beautiful. The enthusiasm of the artists is touching my heart,” she said.
Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company. Founded in 2006 on a mission to revive China’s divinely inspired culture, Shen Yun now tours the world each year with three equally large companies, each with its own orchestra and vocal soloists.
“It’s almost indescribably amazing and beautiful. Indescribable, the scenery, the feeling that’s coming from all of the artists, and the costumes are so beautiful—vibrant silk fluttering, it is gorgeous.”
Ms. Critchley shared her thoughts at intermission. Noting that her work as the senior VP of human resources for Home Properties Inc. requires her to bridge cultural gaps, she said Shen Yun was a great way to connect people together.
With some 1,300 employees, the company owns, manages, and develops multi-family apartments along the East Coast.
Ms. Critchley said she had some expectations of Shen Yun from the colorful brochure she received, but it did not fully prepare her for the caliber of the performers in their skill, energy, and elegance.
“I was surprised at how much tumbling and just how graceful but also how strong and athletic everyone is,” she said.
Classical Chinese dance is the secret grandfather of both gymnastics and acrobatics. The jumps and flips people enjoy during the Olympics actually have a history of thousands of years and originated in Classical Chinese dance.
The most important reason to be here is to understand and be drawn into the culture and the beauty.
— Lisa Critchley
Ms. Critchley noted the delicacy with which the female dancers in the Mongolian Bowl Dance, a traditional dance of welcome, balance bowls on top of their heads.
She also enjoyed Shen Yun’s opening number, Descending to the World, which begins with a host of heavenly beings coming to Earth to begin China’s divinely inspired culture.
“The first piece was very moving because it helped to open you up to the 5,000 years of Chinese culture. I started to feel like I was going to cry, and particularly when the first female artist sang,” Ms. Critchley said.
That first female singer was soprano Huang Pi-Ju. Ms. Critchley had yet to see the final vocal soloist of the night, Geng Haolan, who was called back for an encore.
Pride in traditional culture
Ms. Critchley said she felt that all the performers conveyed a love for their country and an interest in sharing the “wonderful history” of China with the audience.
“The history, and the battles, and the loveliness of it, is all coming through.”
She said Shen Yun showed her the pride of the Chinese people in their traditional culture and that the dance company was sharing that with the world.
“5,000 years of history compared to over 200 for the United States is really quite amazing,” she said.
“They really try to help us understand what is happening in the Chinese history through the dance. It is very moving.”
Shen Yun’s effort to restore traditional Chinese culture is partly a response to the devastation Chinese culture has suffered under communist rule. Through political movements like the Cultural Revolution, much of the culture has been destroyed, and yet a root remains, notes Shen Yun’s website.
Ms. Critchley said she enjoyed how much the dancers smiled and the friendliness they conveyed throughout the performance.
She has been studying Chinese brush painting for the past three years and said that experience has helped her build a connection with the culture. The opportunity to form that connection was why she would recommend the show to others, she said.
“The most important reason to be here is to understand and be drawn into the culture and the beauty and also story—the story of battle, the story of love, the story of triumph, the story of perseverance, but also this happiness that’s coming out. That’s why you should come here,” she said.
According to Reuters, before her role at Home Properties, Ms Critchley was the director of human resources at Alstom Signaling Inc. and assistant dean at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration.
It just gives you a good feeling.
— Dave Miller
Also attending the show Saturday was Dave Miller, the owner of a small accounting firm, who said he very much enjoyed the show.
He said Chinese dance, Shen Yun’s colorful costumes, and the way the entire performance was put together were all a new experience for him.
“It’s very different, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.”
“The dancing, I thought was very well done,” he said.
Shen Yun presents performances of mainly classical Chinese dance, along with ethnic dances from China’s diverse peoples and folk dances from the majority Han ethnicity. Classical Chinese dance is a 5,000-year-old tradition passed down largely in imperial courts and in ancient Chinese theater and opera.
Like Ms. Critchley, Mr. Miller said he enjoyed the aerial flips and the jumping and tumbling techniques of classical Chinese dance.
“Very athletic,” he said.
The entire performance left him feeling uplifted, he noted.
“It just gives you a good feeling. … It’s a very enjoyable extravaganza.”
With reporting by Madalina Hubert and NTD Television
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun will be in Rochester for one more show on Sunday, Feb. 17. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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