“I think the whole evening was inspiring. Generally the whole evening leaves you feeling better about so many things. That’s what I think it does. It appeals to a deep part of you”.
LONDON—For documentary filmmaker Catherine Bate there was something special happening in the auditorium when she went to see Shen Yun at London’s Barbican Centre on Friday, March 8.
She described the atmosphere there as wonderful and said that “people were really, really enjoying it”.
“I think the whole evening was inspiring. Generally the whole evening leaves you feeling better about so many things. That’s what I think it does. It appeals to a deep part of you. It lets light shine in on a part of you—that’s what I think happens. There’s a sense of [the performers, the orchestra, and the audience] coming together, but there is a sense of a light being shone,” she said.
According to the website of New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts, the company’s aim is to revive 5,000 years of Chinese civilization and divinely inspired culture. Through story-based classical Chinese dance, ancient legends of wisdom and heroism are enacted as well as more modern tales of courage.
“I think it was so clever to mix the traditional with the new as well—like with the orchestra and the way some of the scenes were set in modern China as well as going back thousands of years,” Ms. Bate said.
One unique feature of Shen Yun is the music that blends Chinese and Western classical traditions. All-original compositions are played by a full orchestra that incorporates ancient Chinese instruments, like the two-stringed erhu, to create an enchanting and innovative sound.
Bel canto vocal soloists sing songs that voice hopes that have shaped Chinese culture throughout history. Ms. Bate appreciated the state-of-the-art digital technology that not only projects the songs’ words behind the stage, but also creates beautiful scenes of ancient landscapes and dancers ascending to heavenly realms.
“The technical side was very good, the way in which the dancers would fly off into the clouds and the way you could read the words of the songs, because otherwise for an English audience it would be very difficult to know what was going on. With the words being so clearly displayed it made things much better”.
Shen Yun artists believe that it is the heart of the performer that the audience feels. They nurture the values and wisdom of traditional Chinese culture within their lives and this inspires their performance. Many of these values have been lost in recent times in China through campaigns like the Cultural Revolution.
Ms. Bate said that she had seen some Chinese dance in China, but it’s different to Shen Yun; however, she could not fully express how it differed.
“I can only say that here tonight there was something special in the auditorium. I think it came from the performers and the honesty and the truth that was coming from them. I think that [their] sincerity came across and the audience responded well.”
As a filmmaker Ms. Bate is well placed to understand the components of performance art.
“Sometimes you get a sense of when a piece of art works it’s bigger than words, bigger than the movements, and bigger than the individual people there. When that happens it appeals to something, to everybody in the room. There’s a kind of unity that comes out of that, and that can happen in lots of different situations, and I think it happened tonight here at the Barbican in London”.
Reporting by Sound of Hope Radio Network and Simon Miller.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will be performing in Barbican Theatre through March 9. For more information, visitShenYunPerformingArts.org
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.