MELBOURNE, Australia—When Steven Heathcote AM, ballet master with the Australian Ballet, took a night off from his own performance to see the opening night performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company at the Regent Theatre, on March 24, he was not sure what to expect.
“It’s been a really great experience,” he said. “It’s spectacular! The detail and the costuming, the choreography, the technology they have used in the performances, it’s quite breathtaking.”
According to the Australia Ballet website, Mr. Heathcote began ballet at age 10 and entered The Australian Ballet School at 16. He quickly rose to principal artist, a position he held for 20 years before retiring as the Australian Ballet’s longest-serving principal artist. He returned to The Australian Ballet in 2014 as ballet master. He has received three Helpmann Awards, two Mo Awards and an Australian Dance Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Individual”. In 1991 Mr. Heathcote was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, General Division, for “service to ballet”.
Mr. Heathcote appreciated the dance training and the ability of the Shen Yun dancers.
“It’s very evident that the dancers of the Shen Yun Company have a classical base to the way they move,” he said. “It’s really interesting to see the combination of tumbling acrobatics, martial arts type of movements incorporated into the choreographies. It’s very different from what we do in Australian ballet, but it’s very entertaining.”
Shen Yun is based in New York and is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Classical Chinese dance is a complete dance system, embodying traditional aesthetic principles but also includes incredible flips and spins and is one of the most rigorous and expressive art forms in the world. It has three main components—bearing, form, and technical skill and the system has absorbed profound wisdom from every era and dynasty for thousands of years.
Not only is Shen Yun known for the ability of its individual dancers but also for the choreographed patterns displayed as a group. Mr. Heathcote appreciated what he experienced.
“Synchronicity seems to be a big element of this, and when you get that sort of mass movement of dancers moving with that synchronisation, it’s a very beautiful effect,” he said.
“It’s quite calming in fact to the eye when you see that sort of oneness between the dancers.”
There were also many other aspects to the performance that enchanted Mr. Heathcote: “The costumes and the technology, particularly the projection screen, the way they meld together is fantastic. You’ve got complementary colours the whole way through the production, so clearly the production team has thought clearly about this.”
He continued, “Fantastic combination of Western and Chinese traditional music, with a really interesting combination of instruments.
“Clearly the choreography has been designed around the music or on the music, so as with ballet, there are dynamics in the music that are reflected in the way the dancers are moving, so it’s interesting to see.”
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture almost lost under communist rule. Mr. Heathcote experienced a glimpse of these ancient times.
“Obviously, this is a view into, perhaps, a world prior to communist China, which is very evident in this production, and one where a lot of artistic creative expression existed, so it’s obviously a mirror of the situation in mainland China, where people feel they don’t have that capacity to express themselves fully,” he said.
“Clearly, to me, it’s evident that this is a stylised view of perhaps the life before the Communist regime in mainland China, where self-expression, artistic expression was much freer, hence I guess, the colour, the movement, the joy and all that.”
To dancers and dance lovers in Melbourne and Australia Mr. Heathcote said, “I would recommend to come and enjoy this performance of Shen Yun. It’s a cultural experience … which I’ve not seen before and I think this production has a lot to offer to the audiences of Australia.”
Reporting by Leigh Smith
With five touring companies performing simultaneously around the world, New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts aims to revive China’s nearly lost traditional performing arts and time-honored values.
The Epoch Times, considering Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time, has proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.