PITTSBURGH—Classical ballet instructor Virginia Nicoll Hernandez universally praised Shen Yun Performing Arts after seeing the company perform at Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday.
The Director of Southwest Ballet in Pittsburgh, who has taught ballet for 25 years, described Shen Yun’s production values and technique as “implicitly beautiful, very good, [and] clean.” She said, “Everybody was completely syncopated together; it was one beautiful movement.”
Classical Chinese dance, the main dance form used by performers in Shen Yun, is several thousands of years old, with its own system of movement, techniques, bearing, and form, the company’s website says. With its vast repertoire of movements, the system is capable of embodying the inner meanings of Chinese culture and ethnicity.
“I really loved the arm gestures, how they’re very different, yet very classical,” said Ms. Hernandez, adding that the dancers are “very expressive” as well as “phenomenal.”
In each piece, the dancers don exquisite handmade costumes, for example from the Tang Dynasty, which spanned between the 7th and 10th centuries, the Han Dynasty, and other eras. The dress of various ethnic groups is also represented throughout the performance.
“The costuming was absolutely beautiful, I loved the head pieces. I think it’s very difficult to, I know, to just dance with the headpiece and then to have a bowl on your head and have to spin around. So I can’t even imagine how they did it without dropping it,” said Ms. Hernandez referring to the “Mongolian Bowl Dance,” which is a traditional dance of welcome.
“There was a lot of props that they had to dance with too which was very hard,” she added.
Ms. Hernandez also specifically noted the performance’s focus on Chinese divinity and spirituality.
“It was a very powerful message I think that we got to see, especially in regards to expression of religious freedom, to be able to express yourself,” said Ms. Hernandez, adding, “I really was moved by it.”
Shen Yun focuses on various aspects of traditional Chinese culture, including values like justice, propriety, and virtue—all conveyed by the dancers through silent story telling of old legends and other tales. There are also several modern pieces that focus on the Chinese Communist Party’s current persecution of religious beliefs inside the country.
“There was spirituality in all the dances and it had a translation for everything, how they felt … and I just thought that it was so beautiful,” Ms. Hernandez continued. “Because we, especially in America really don’t know what the Chinese culture is like, it’s very separate of how we live, so we don’t know that there is a whole religion there, all we know is that they don’t get to practice their religion, so I was very happy to see that.”
Based in New York, Shen Yun aims to rekindle traditional Chinese culture that has been mostly lost, according to the company’s website. There is a particular focus on the spirituality throughout Chinese civilization, which is some 5,000 years old, and touches on principles found in Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.
Ms. Hernandez said she was happy to see how the culture seeks to connect with heaven. “It was beautiful, I was really, really shocked, I didn’t expect that,” she added.
Keeley Hernandez, also a ballet dancer and a student, came with Ms. Hernandez. The younger Hernandez said “loved the show.”
“The costumes I thought were phenomenal. They really made the show. It was gorgeous,” she said.
With reporting by NTD Television and Jack Phillips.
Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company will perform in Pittsburg until Feb. 3. 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
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.