NEW YORK—Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s top classical Chinese dance company, so Richard Libero, head of an accounting firm, knew he would be impressed with the dance. He just didn’t realize how much more he would be getting out of the performance
“It was not what I expected—it was more,” said Richard, who attended a performance at Lincoln Center on March 8, 2020, with his wife Dolores.
“I sat down and thought it was just going to be dancing. I didn’t realize it was a story that took you into it and made you part of it. I felt like, many times, I was part of the whole scenery in there because I wanted to hear more, I really did. It was very, very good, very good,” Richard said.
The couple added that they only wished they’d brought their grandchildren with them.
“It was marvelous. The colors were fabulous. The acting was superb,” said Dolores. “I’m planning on taking my grandchildren next year.”
“I would take them in a heartbeat,” Richard added. “They would love it.”
“The dancing was superb, okay, but the costumes were magnificent. They brought out the meanings as the young ladies or men too wrapped their long sleeves around their arms. I was taken back by it. They did not allow that to get mixed up into the act, and it kept them going. Unbelievable,” Richard said: “The movements of the legs, the stretching of the legs, bending over, just phenomenal. Phenomenal. Far more than what I expected. I’m leaving here floating on air.”
Classical Chinese dance, which New York-based Shen Yun has brought to global popularity in the last decade, is famously expressive. It is a complex dance system developed over thousands of years, with difficult tumbling techniques that are actually the predecessor to acrobatics, and is a form of dance driven by inner feeling.
“It was fantastic. I loved it. I loved everything. The movements were sharp, precise, they swayed and then the screen in the back to absorb that was just unbelievable. I was taken back by it, I really was,” Richard said.
Traditional Chinese culture is said to be divinely inspired, and for thousands of years revolved around the concept of harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind. This idea permeates not just the narratives of Shen Yun’s storytelling dancing and the songs performed by bel canto artists, but in the costumes, use of color, and the dance form itself, as traditional Chinese culture is believed to have been imparted to humankind by the gods.
“The belief in God is a powerful thing, okay, and here we felt that God was there,” Richard said.
“And the songs were just unbelievable,” he added. “The two singers, the woman and the man brought out words and things that I didn’t realize, words that I didn’t even expect would be related to God and the Creation of Earth. It was unbelievable, just unbelievable.”
“He raised his voice and moved his body, you could feel the words, he was looking to reach out and talk to us,” Richard said.
“Anybody I see, I would recommend this to,” he said.
With reporting by Janita Kan.