HOUSTON—”I laughed, I cried, I experienced the magic of Chinese dance. It was unbelievable,” said Rob Kase, a vice president for business strategy, after seeing 5,000 years of Chinese civilization played out on stage.
Mr. Kase attended Shen Yun Performing Arts with his family at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts on Dec. 26. Like so many other audience members, they commented on the movements with wonder—how the footfalls were so quick in one dance, how the sparkling handkerchiefs flew in another.
New York-based Shen Yun primarily performs classical Chinese dance, an art form thousands of years old, but little known in the West.
“It looks like they’re basically coming from heaven, they’re basically floating on air,” said Lorraine Jones, a cook, who saw the performance with friends.
Classical Chinese dance is filled with high jumps, flips, and tumbling techniques of high difficulty. Audience members often recognize the action-packed movements as something they would see in a martial arts movie or Olympic gymnastics. It makes sense, because Chinese dance and martial arts grew from the same origins. Sports like gymnastics and acrobatics, too, originated from classical Chinese dance.
One move, the “fan shen,” has dancers spinning with their arms out, tilted so their upper bodies are nearly perpendicular to the stage. It literally means “turning the body,” and has the effect of turning the dancers into what audience members describe as blooming flowers or explosions of color as their costumes swirl around them.
Classical Chinese dance is also characterized by its emphasis on inner spirit, or “yun.” It requires the dancers to also focus on “breath, intent, personal aura, and deep emotional expression,” according to Shen Yun’s website, while simultaneously performing a “fan shen” across the stage.
‘Delicacy of the movement’
“One of the things that comes across to me is the delicacy of the movement suggesting that nothing is aggressive,” said Frank Rixon, a retired helicopter engineer. “There’s obviously a lot of achievement on the part of the dancers.”
“A lot of credit this deserves,” said Mr. Rixon. “All around, [these] people have done a lot of good work.”
‘A beautiful work of art’
Karen Guidry, who bought tickets to Shen Yun for her sister Jan’s birthday, said “it was just a beautiful work of art.”
Ms. Guidry’s daughter Holly Wright said it was “very dramatic, very captivating.”
The party of four had discussed the program and came to the conclusion their favorite parts included fans. In one dance, female dancers handled blue and white fans with long trains, creating a rippling effect that Ms. Wright called mesmerizing.
“I was hypnotized,” Ms. Wright said. “They could just do that forever and I didn’t want it to stop.”
Costumes add another dimension of difficulty to the production.
The costumes in Shen Yun are many—nearly 400—and often include props like the fans, or long sleeves and hems that dancers also need to pay attention to while performing the nearly airborne feats. The length and weight of ribbons have to be tested and re-balanced, lest one dancer tangle another, and only after months of dress rehearsals do these stage-ready pieces come out ready from their lab, according to Shen Yun dancer Cindy Liu’s blog.
“The exquisite colors, the dresses, the movements, oh! how they were so synchronized,” Ms. Wright said. She said she’d intently watched for mistakes and was in disbelief when she could find none.
“Could you believe how they synchronized?” Ms. Wright asked. “I could not find somebody being off—it was perfect.”
Like so many audience members, the group marveled at what training and hours must have gone into the performance. “It was just such a work of art. You just had to appreciate it, just watching it,” Ms. Guidry said.
Reporting by Sherry Dong, Sarah Guo, and Catherine Yang
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.