CLEVELAND—It’s hard to say whether it was the beauty of the performance or the storyline of the dances that affected Emily Stephens most. “It almost moved me to tears,” she said after watching Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company perform at Cleveland’s State Theatre, on Feb. 2.
Classical Chinese dancers, award-winning singers, and a full orchestra comprised of both Eastern and Western instruments allow New York-based Shen Yun to bring 5,000 years of Chinese civilization to the world.
“It was just stunning, the color is beautiful,” Ms. Stephens said. She came from Lithuania to America on an art scholarship 20 years ago and now paints and weaves tapestries, when she is not a full-time mother. She attended the performance with her children and husband, Saul Stephens, a financial adviser.
China’s rich civilization was nearly lost after 60 years of deliberate dismantling by the Communist regime, according to the company’s website.
This is something Ms. Stephens understands: “I grew up during a communist regime. I came here when I was 16, so I remember the government oppression; I remember a lot of it, so the number with the girl with the mother, I was just stunned into silence with that one.”
Some of the dances depict the ongoing persecution of people of faith in China.
“It was very moving, and I think Americans don’t know about it a lot, so it’s just kind of neat for the kids to see it, a visual of that so someday we can talk to them about it: ‘Do you remember what you saw from the show?’ Sometimes visually I can say is better than [with] words,” she said.
“I’m learning [things] about the Chinese culture that I didn’t know before. I knew it was fascinating because the country is ancient, so vast and just all the different regions and they are all slightly different in the way they express themselves. Really neat, a rich culture,” she said.
In addition to the story-based dances, Shen Yun presents folk dances from the more than 50 ethnicities of China.
Mr. Stephens was impressed by many facets of the performance. “The colors are excellent and the male scenes are very good with the action and the music. Very good synchronization, because I pay attention to that, making sure everyone’s timing is perfect,” he said.
Ms. Stephens appreciated these elements too. She enjoyed the athleticism of the difficult tumbling and aerial movements, as well as “just the geometry of the dance, stunning. The costumes are top notch.”
Behind the dancers is a digitally animated backdrop which interacts with the live performers.
“I really like how they combined the staging, the kind of modern [technology], where they have the projector and then how the people leap out. I’ve never seen that before and it is really unique and for the children, it connects it for them and keeps them engaged. It is beautiful, I love it,” she said.
The other component that appealed to Ms. Stephens was the performances spirituality: “Very spiritual, like even just the opening—how they said the culture descended from the Gods. I thought that was pretty eye opening and moving …. And definitely the art confirms that.”
Reporting by Teresa You and Sharon Kilarski
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.