NEW YORK—After seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, Ronald Sylvestri, Senior Vice President for Hudson Valley Bank, was touched.
“I loved it,” he said. “The music, the feeling, the people, the story, I mean just everything about it.”
A number of artistic mediums are harmonized in a Shen Yun performance, combined to revive the ancient, 5,000 year-old, and divinely inspired Chinese culture, according to the company’s website. Award-winning performers of Classical Chinese dance—one of the world’s most comprehensive dance systems—are adorned with brilliantly-colored, handcrafted regalia.
“It was just fantastic,” proclaimed Mr. Sylvestri. “It was so alive … just magnificent.”
Chinese traditional culture, under the influence of the three religions of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism, “spawned a rich and profound system of values,” according to Shen Yun’s website.
“The concepts of “man and nature must be in balance,” “respect the heavens to know one’s destiny,” and the five cardinal virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness (ren yi li zhi xin) are all products of these three religions’ teachings. These principles have constantly played out over China’s 5,000-year-long history,” the website says.
One of Mr. Sylvestri’s companions for the evening, Virginia Garcia, an editor for a local Spanish newspaper, discovered the authentic culture in Shen Yun’s performance.
“It’s like you discover a new world that you didn’t know, because we see another China, the actual China,” she said. “The things that I’ve seen from China are very precise, very to the point, but they lack the soul.”
For more than six decades, the Chinese Communist Party has “launched various campaigns—most notably the Cultural Revolution—to destroy not only cultural sites, temples, and relics, but also the Chinese people’s belief in virtue and faith in the divine,” explains Shen Yun’s website. “The Chinese Communist Party removes the cultural essence of respect for the divine, thereby extracting the heart and soul of traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun seeks to revive these virtues the world over.”
Other aspects of Shen Yun were also appreciated by Mr. Sylvestri and Ms. Garcia, including Shen Yun’s unique orchestra, which combines classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments.
“The music is very wonderful,” said Mr. Sylvestri, “Soothing.”
“The melody actually of the music is very romantic,” said Ms. Garcia. “Very inspiring, very spiritual.”
Shen Yun’s digital backdrops, showing landscapes from across the vast land of China and from different dynasties and eras, also impressed the group. Mr. Sylvestri called it “just magnificent.”
One dance, “The Choice,” greatly affected Ms. Garcia. In the dance, according to Shen Yun’s program, a young man and woman encounter a thief. The man helps the police catch the thief and they recruit him to join the force, forcing the couple to part ways. “Fate leads the woman to a group of Falun Dafa followers. Their practice of Truth, Compassion, Tolerance inspires her to adopt their beliefs,” explains the program.
After the practice becomes outlawed, followers protest on Tiananmen Square and are brutally beaten. “The young woman attempts to defend them, and is brought face-to-face with her old friend,” says the program. The young man faces a choice: defend his old friend and the Falun Dafa followers, or join in on the brutal beating?
“The dances are very powerful especially The Choice, that impacted me,” said Ms. Garcia who also particularly enjoyed How the Monkey King Came to Be, which depicts a the central character in China’s classic novel Journey to the West.
After seeing Shen Yun, both Mr. Sylvestri and Ms. Garcia were enamored with the performing arts company.
“I love the show,” said Ms. Garcia, adding it left a special feeling in her heart.
“Great evening,” said Mr. Sylvestri. “It’s special. It’s something special.
“It’s just wonderful being here,” he added. “I’d love to see more of this and I’ll be coming back every year now. No doubt about that.”
Reporting by Joshua Philipp and Zachary Stieber
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Upcoming performances in the United States include Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 24, and Columbus, Ohio, on April 26 and April 27.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.