PORTLAND, Ore.—The Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company concluded its three nights of performances in Portland, Ore., at the Keller Auditorium Thursday evening. It was an eye-opening experience for Ms. Lee Hopkins and her friend, Ms. Nancy Culolias.
“This is so beautiful. I have never seen this before,” said Ms. Hopkins, a professional singer of classical music and musicals.
Ms. Culolias, who is also a professional singer, was especially impressed by the composition and arrangement of Shen Yun’s diverse musical selections. “I particularly enjoy the orchestra,” she said. “The music is so dynamic and so evocative of China. I really, really enjoy it,” she said.
All the dances in Shen Yun’s performances are accompanied by a live orchestra that combines Western and Chinese musical instruments. “A Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation, while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies. The sound produced is uniquely pleasing to the ear. The ensemble at once expresses both the grandeur of a Western orchestra and the distinct sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization,” reads Shen Yun’s website.
Being a singer, Ms. Hopkins was in great admiration for the Shen Yun’s bel canto performers.
“We are both singers, so we really appreciate the singing,” she said. “The last fellow, the tenor, you could tell that he is very well trained. But beyond that, he has so much emotion. It’s very difficult for us as singers to recreate emotion—so to be able to portray that enough so that audience members feel that.
“That’s extraordinary,” she added with extra emphasis.
Solo singing is an integral part of a Shen Yun performance, where singers perform Chinese song texts with bel canto technique. Originally written for the songs, the texts are “brimming with philosophical reflection about human life and containing deep layers of meaning,” and “they go beyond the boundaries of nation, race, and culture,” according to Shen Yun’s website.
The perfection of the female dancers was an entirely new experience for the two friends.
[topic]“The dancers are fabulous. They are just wonderful. I love the way the women move. It is so different than what we see here in our ballet. They are so smooth,” said Ms. Culolias.
“It is so fluid like water,” Ms. Hopkins added.
Also among Thursday’s audience was Ms. Melissa Tribe, a dancer. She was also particularly taken aback by the technical skills of Shen Yun’s dancers.
“I think it’s very beautiful, and the technique is right on point. It’s really impressive. The technical skills of all the dancers are really impressive,” she said.
She also praised the choreography.
“The choreography is really great. Sometimes a lot of people just focus on the dancers that are up there,” she said. “But behind the scenes, I could tell there was a lot of work that was put into it.”
Having a lot of experience with different dance traditions, Ms. Tribe appreciated that Shen Yun’s dances, especially the story-based renditions, are not simply dance movements choreographed to music—but instead, they are thoughtfully-choreographed pieces bearing deep cultural significance.
Reporting by Fany Qiu and Rachel Huang
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.