SYRACUSE, N.Y.—Ceramic artist Paula Burke is fascinated by the motion of water, particularly how it interacts and falls into itself, such motion becoming inspiration for some of her elegant porcelain pottery pieces.
It was no wonder that the “Fairies of the Sea” dance in this year’s Shen Yun Performing Arts was one of those dances that inspired images of works she wanted to then create. She wistfully spoke of the blue-white rippling fans the dancers used to create waves and waterfalls, and “that was beautiful.”
Paula Burke and her husband Richard saw the New York-based classical Chinese dance and music company at The Oncenter Crouse Hinds Theater on Jan. 29. The couple was captivated by the beauty and purpose.
“I got the message to find your purpose in life,” Mr. Burke said of the performance. For him, it was cleaning up the environment as he has been doing as an engineer for the past 40 years. For his wife, it was her art.
“It was beautiful, the performers had amazing energy and [were] very precise, the imagery was beautiful,” Mrs. Burke said.
“I was inspired,” she said. “I was thinking about pieces of artwork that reflected some of the dance movement, and I was actually getting ideas for my own work.”
The movements in a Shen Yun performance are unique. The dancers perform classical Chinese dance, an art form thousands of years old but still little known in the West. The independent dance system includes many postures and movements unique to the system and distinctly Chinese, the emcees explained. These movements are generally rounded, continuous movements, according to Shen Yun’s website.
On top of that, classical Chinese dancers are required to master the full range of difficult aerial and tumbling techniques including a leap that culminates into a split while you’re in the air, a flip that requires flexibility well past a split, and spinning with the upper body nearly perpendicular to the legs across the stage, as dancers have lightheartedly and informatively documented in Shen Yun blog posts.
It is also an expressive dance form lending itself to storytelling, as the dance also emphasizes the bearing, or inner spirit, of the dancer and characters portrayed.
The medium Mrs. Burke works with is clay. She draws her inspiration from the fluid movement of water, and reflects this in her pieces in shape, texture, and finish. Her works are glazed in a painterly fashion, some adorned with an almost watercolor-like finish. As a ceramic artist, she works with both the wheel and hand-thrown clay.
Porcelain is a tricky material that can easily warp, shrink, and crack, but it creates works with an elegant, glassy effect Mrs. Burke likes. It is the type of material that pairs with Shen Yun’s dances and movements, she said.
She similarly felt the dancers’ passion and purpose. “I think that it was obvious that the people performing had to love what they were doing and that it consumed all their life for them to be able to perform like that.”
Reporting by Weiyong Zhu 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.
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.