DETROIT—Ward and Diane Powers enjoyed a dance performance that they say brought them more in touch with Ancient Chinese culture than any book ever could. The lawyer and his wife, a non-profit director, attended Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company’s performance on Jan. 27 at the Detroit Opera House.
The New York-based company is on a mission to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture. Through dance, music, vivid projected backdrops, and costumes, Shen Yun depicts legends, myths, and the history of China.
The couple said the dancing was “fantastic” and “absolutely fabulous,” while the colorful animated backdrops “brings it to life.”
“I’m really enjoying it. It’s nice to have a sense of another culture,” Mr. Powers said. “And I think one of the best ways to really get that is to see the art of the culture. It’s one thing to read a book, or to hear a story, but when you see a program like this, it’s really living art. And it brings that culture to life for you. It’s a different experience.”
Mr. Powers described the dancing as “a living expression of the culture.” He said that the experience allowed him to “feel” the culture, and not just conceptualize it.
“It’s not like learning history where it’s in your mind,” he said. “It’s in your heart.”
The culture Mr. Powers felt in his heart was one “that has a deep sense of mystery, mysticism and magic to it,” he said. “There’ve been generations upon generations of living struggle that has led to a way of being that is different than we have in the West: beautiful, very beautiful.”
At the heart of Shen Yun is dance—both classical Chinese, and ethnic dances that show the breadth of Chinese diversity.
Mrs. Ward said “The Mongolian Bowl Dance” was the one she enjoyed most. The ethnic dance portrays Mongolian women emerging from their tents, balancing bowls on their heads in a welcoming precession.
The insight into this culture intrigued Mrs. Ward. “I like the color [of the costumes],” she said. “I felt that it was truly an old custom that I was witnessing. That was the heart of it”
Chinese classical dance is perhaps the most expressive dance system in the world, which makes the art form a fitting vehicle for telling stories. But Shen Yun doesn’t just use this form to portray life in Ancient China—the company tackles current issues as well.
For Mr. Ward, the dances portraying life in modern China, such as “An Unexpected Encounter,” struck him most. The performance shows tourists mistakenly thrown in jail, alongside protestors of the wrongfully persecuted Falun Dafa practice.
Mr. Ward said that, despite the differences between East and West, all cultures share the same human experiences of struggle and perseverance, and the performance brought it all together.
“We express it in different ways, but the struggle itself is a shared struggle. And I think art helps us understand that,” he said. “It feels like a lot of the dances are portraying the struggle both within the human being and between human beings.”
Mr. Ward recalled the scenes which portrayed struggle—from everyday challenges, to protestors thrown in jail for their beliefs. “This just reminds us that we’re all one,” he said.
The Wards said they genuinely enjoyed the show, and could tell that the entire audience did too.
“It’s a nice way to bring people together because through the artists’ performance, you can not only sense the story they’re telling, but you can also sense the beauty with which that experience is lived out,” Mr. Ward said.
“The show itself is the colors, and the movement, and the talent.” he said. “All of those things make it seem so special that you feel like you’re lucky to be here, and learning about this culture and sharing this unity that we all live.”
Reporting by NTD Television, Dongyu Tong, Valerie Avore, and Sharon Kilarski.
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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