SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, March 30, the world-renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company presented its acclaimed performance to a sold-out audience at The Granada Theatre, located in a city referred to as the American Riviera because of its beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, and colorful culture.
Among an excited audience was Beverly Jackson, an award-winning author who writes books about Chinese culture and fashion. She is also a lecturer.
One of her published books, Splendid Slippers, won the Bookbuilders West 1998 Judge’s Choice Award. This book has been acknowledged in medical circles for its information on Chinese footbinding, and is still in print.
Accompanying her was Bill Cornfield, a Chinese art and antiques collector and retired business owner.
Ms. Jackson was delighted by the classical Chinese dance: “Very precise. Exciting. They instill excitement.”
“Even the costumes and everything, but also when characterizing the people, all the women are the same height. They’re not taller or shorter. It’s beautifully conceived,” added Mr. Cornfield.
Impressed with the precision and perfect synchronization of the dancers, Ms. Jackson said, “It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful. The precision is marvelous. Everyone does everything at the same time, and as my friend just said they’re all the same height, which makes it interesting.”
Independent and nonprofit, New York-based Shen Yun was established in 2006 by artists from around the world with the mission of using the universal language of dance and music to revive China’s divinely inspired traditional Chinese culture, which had nearly been completely destroyed by the current regime in China over the last several decades.
According to the Shen Yun website, “A Shen Yun performance features the world’s foremost classically trained dancers, a unique orchestra blending East and West, and dazzling animated backdrops—together creating one spectacular performance.”
It further explains, “Classical Chinese dance has its own set of training methods in basic skills and has strict training in both physical expression and specific postures. It also involves learning combinations of leaps, turns, flips, spins, and other aerial and tumbling techniques.”
The performance includes several dance pieces that transport the audience across China through 5,000 years of culture and civilization.
“The direction is beautiful and the conception of each one of them is brilliant how they put it together,” said Mr. Cornfield. “The fantasy of it all is just gorgeous.”
Each dance is supported by original music played by the Shen Yun Orchestra. Shen Yun’s website describes the orchestra: “The Shen Yun Orchestra masterfully blends two of the world’s greatest classical music traditions. Ancient Chinese instruments such as the soul-stirring erhu and the delicate pipa lead the melody on top of a full orchestra of Western strings, percussion, woodwinds, and brass. The Western orchestra with its energy and grandeur, and the Chinese instruments with their distinct tones and styles, create a dramatic new sound.”
“The orchestra is very good. Very good,” said Ms. Jackson.
Mr. Cornfield chimed in, “I love the music.”
Another notable feature of Shen Yun is its use of rich, animated digital backdrops to add context and immerse the viewers for each dance.
The website explains, “With state-of-the-art graphics technology, Shen Yun’s digital-backdrop team creates vividly animated settings, extending the stage and transporting the audience to a world where heaven and earth are one.”
Mr. Cornfield was impressed with the state-of-the-art digital backdrops, “I like the background, the use of photography and all. It’s just amazing.”
“And the figures disappearing out, I love that,” added Ms. Jackson, about how the dancers interact with the backdrop, appearing to leap into or out of the screen. “The dragon coming down from the sky. I like that one. I love the way the figures all disappear up in the sky. That’s marvelous.”
Each dance in Shen Yun also has unique costumes. The website explains, “Every costume in a Shen Yun performance is presented with brilliant colors, displaying a splendid spectacle—from the Tang Dynasty’s ‘Raiment of Rainbows and Feathers’ to imperial dragon robes, phoenix coronets, and cloud capes; from the civil official’s headdress and robes to the warrior’s helmet and armor.”
As a collector of antique Chinese art and clothing, Ms. Jackson was enthralled by the costumes. “The costumes are beautiful. The colors are wonderful. They’re exciting. Just as the dancing is exciting, the colors are exciting.”
Ms. Jackson continued marveling at the Shen Yun performance, “It’s a wonderful show. It’s a very exciting show.”
Reporting by Lu Rusong and Thanh Le
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