OGDEN, Utah—The opening night performance in Ogden, Utah of Shen Yun Performing Art’s 2013 tour was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience members at the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts at Weber State University.
New York-based Shen Yun is the premier classical Chinese dance company in the world with a mission to revitalize true traditional culture through the arts.
Carol Browning, retired professor of comparative education and a descendent of the art patron whose love of the arts and donations originally established the Browning Center, found the dance’s precision impressive.
“The precision is quite unusual of the dancing … everything is exact.”
According to the Shen Yun website, “Classical Chinese dance has its own training in basic skills, physical expression and postures, leaps, flips, spins and other difficult tumbling techniques, forming an extensive and independent dance system.”
“I enjoyed it. I didn’t know what to expect” of classical Chinese dance, said Bob Ihle, who has retired from the engineering field. He came on the invitation of Ms. Browning.
“We were looking forward to seeing it,” said Mr. Ihle. “I’m delighted. … The variety is always pretty interesting, too.”
Shen Yun depicts stories from China’s 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture. The stories range from ancient to modern times and are not only depicted through classical Chinese dance, but also with the sounds of an orchestra which blends traditional Western and Eastern instruments, and through opera-style vocal soloists.
“For thousands of years, Buddhist, Taoist, and other disciplines were at the heart of society. Calligraphy, music, medicine, attire, and much more were said to have been passed down from the heavens,” states the Shen Yun website.
This tradition that values harmony between heaven and earth is seen as a threat by the communist rule, and thus this ancient culture was almost completely destroyed.
The March 12 evening performance stirred Ms. Browning’s curiosity about a part of recent history she witnessed while living in Beijing for two years.
“Because when I lived in China, [Falun Gong] was not to be spoken of. It was not to be seen, not to be discussed. I was witness to the policemen coming and taking them all away. I don’t know where they took them, probably to a jail,” she said.
The dance that brought this memory to mind is called Divine Mercy. It tells a story of good versus evil in today’s China—the communist regime’s persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice.
Falun Gong practices the principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance.
Shen Yun is able to express traditional values due to the fact that it performs outside of China. It is based in New York, and is totally free of communist influence.
Ms. Browning explained the differences in that in her experience of our country: “Nobody ever comes and takes a religious group into jail. Never!”
Reporting by Youzhi Ma and Cat Rooney.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company is scheduled to perform at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Las Vegas, March 15–17. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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