PORTLAND, Ore.— Shen Yun Performing Arts was welcomed to Portland’s Keller Auditorium on April 4, and cultural aficionado and inventor Barrie Gilbert cheerfully found himself among the audience.
“I think it was beautiful, and I am ashamed, or astonished and disappointed, that dances of this kind are not allowed in China,” he said. “Why is that? I mean it’s just beautiful classical dance!”
Shen Yun is on the last leg of its global tour with a mission to restore China’s 5,000 years of rich culture through the universal language of the performing arts. People from all walks of life have been touched by Shen Yun’s beauty and heartfelt message.
As someone who reached the pinnacle of his career as first fellow (most senior position) with Analog Devices’, headquartered in Boston, as well as one who has a “true love of the arts,” Mr. Gilbert remarked, “I am mostly exposed to western art—the opera, the ballet—but this is definitely something that needs to be seen more often in the Western world.”
“I do wish that the national boundaries and the divisions could disappear,” he added. “It’s such a shame that political forces cause people to feel that their nation is the only nation that matters. I’m English, but in the USA it’s very clear that they feel it’s the best country in the world, and there’s hundreds of millions of people out there that are enjoying a different life, which is beautiful in as many ways—hopefully as beautiful and more beautiful.”
Seen around the world as a ‘phenomenon,’ Shen Yun takes one on a journey through China’s ancient dynasties, various ethnic regions, folklore, and heavenly realms by joining classical Chinese dance, exquisitely fashioned and colorful costumes, animated backdrops, and world-renowned soloists culminating in an amazing production.
One dance Mr. Gilbert particularly enjoyed was the northeastern folk dance An Early Spring, in which dancers twirl handkerchiefs evoking spring’s arrival. “Astonishing,” said Mr. Gilbert of the cherry blossoms, adding that it was “very, very impressive.”
“Classical Chinese dance has a long history of thousands of years passed down continuously within the imperial palace and ancient Chinese theater and opera. It has become a complete system of dance embodying traditional aesthetic principles with its unique dance movements, rhythms, and inner meaning,” reads its website.
Mr. Gilbert commented that the amazing energy of the dancers make the technically difficult moves seem easy. “But I imagine it’s extremely hard to do,” he said.
Mr. Gilbert went on to say, “These young people should be commended.”
Shen Yun’s orchestra blends the mystical sounds of the Chinese erhu (two stringed violin) and the dizi (bamboo flute) and many other Eastern instruments with Western symphonic instruments, creating sounds that often transport listeners into other realms.
“The music also was very well composed,” Mr. Gilbert said. He was also “very intrigued by the way the composer managed to blend the pentatonic music with Western harmonies.”
Mr. Gilbert, who is also a member of National Academy of Engineering and who holds over 100 patents in microelectronics, said, “This is the first time I have seen this, but when they come back next year, I’m sure I will come again.”
“But all together it was a memorable event,” said Mr. Gilbert.
Reporting by Li Mei and Maria Banks
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.