PITTSBURGH—Professor Emeritus of Musicology Daniel T. Politoske lauded the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra’s use of Western and Chinese instruments after its last performance in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“It’s a wonderful collection of instruments, and voices, and dancing,” he said, referring to the orchestra and the several solo vocalists pieces. And the dancing aspect—“which includes music and song, and instrumental performance—is fantastic,” Mr. Politoske said.
The performance coordinates classical Chinese dance—a systematic style of dance that dates back thousands of years—with the orchestra and a digital backdrop that serves as the scenery.
“The dancing was just spectacular. They must have been working on this for months, and months, and months… maybe years,” noted Mr. Politoske, who teaches at the University of Kansas and saw Shen Yun at the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts.
The dance is complex and difficult to master, but it is capable of showing the inner meaning of Chinese culture, according to the company’s website. It is considered a complete system of dance, with its own unique postures, movements, tumbling, and other elements.
Elaborating on the orchestra, which uses Western classical music as its base and leads with Chinese instruments—Mr. Politoske said it was “an interesting mix” between the two. When asked if he had ever heard a similar type of orchestra before, he said, “No, nothing quite like that.”
Overall, he said it was “very, very entertaining, and very well done. Well written and well performed by the orchestra, and the singers, and the dancers.” He was referring to the several award-winning bel canto style opera singers interspersed throughout the show.
Mr. Politoske created an endowed scholarship in 2010 through KU Endowment for graduate students studying musicology.
Shen Yun, he said, provides a fresh insight into Chinese culture and its traditions.
“I would recommend it highly to Western people to make them a little more familiar to certain aspects of Chinese art and culture,” Mr. Politoske said.
“It is a distinct reflection of Chinese culture from a very positive point of view. Everything was so beautifully planned and executed,” he added.
Shen Yun aims to revive the 5,000 years of Chinese culture during its performances, saying that the culture is “divinely inspired,” and should be treasured and spread, according to its website.
Even though its main focus is on Chinese traditions, Shen Yun cannot be performed in China because it shows the culture and spirituality that was suppressed and nearly destroyed under decades of communist rule, the company’s website states. So, on another level, the show has a message that promotes freedom of expression.
“Yes, I think it’s a very good thing for something like this to come forth and to be perhaps popularized in Western culture,” Mr. Politoske said. “To see that … there are wonderful things about ancient Chinese [culture]. And this is a positive aspect of Chinese culture.”
With reporting by Pamela Tsai and Jack Phillips
Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company will perform in Pittsburgh 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
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