CHICAGO—Professional photographer Gale Kuffel is retired now, but she still has an eye for beauty. “The backgrounds were beautiful. Every background is beautiful,” she said of one aspect of Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Civic Opera House, April 20.
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company aims to revive the traditional arts and values of China’s 5,000 year history. The Fine Arts are represented in backdrops that take audiences to “blossoming landscapes, deep forests, Mongolian prairies, or celestial paradises,” according to Shen Yun’s website.
Ms. Kuffel mentioned one kind of artistic background she enjoyed in particular: “I remember especially the mountains because I’ve seen pictures in books of the Chinese landscape, so I really like those personally.”
About the projected backdrops, Ms. Kuffel was impressed with how they were integrated with the live performers. “The live performers coming and descending from the background, I found that very interesting,” she mentioned.
The animated backgrounds show deities and flying fairies move across the sky, and then, come to live as dancers onstage once they land.
“I enjoyed every aspect of this performance, quite honestly,” she said. “I loved the costuming, the choreography, the singing, the music. I enjoyed all of those aspects of it,” Ms. Kuffel said.
New York-based Shen Yun brings award-winning classical Chinese dancers, world-class vocalists, and an orchestra composed of both Western and Chinese instruments wherever it tours.
But Ms. Kuffel enjoyed more than the surface beauty of the show. The themes touched her as well.
“I saw that [the dancers] were portraying all wonderful attributes—honesty, goodness, beauty. Those are things I appreciate. When I see it in performance it especially touches me,” she said.
During the show Ms. Kuffel learned that Shen Yun is not allowed in communist China. In fact, communist China destroyed much of traditional Chinese culture during the Cultural Revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“It makes me sad that a country as great as China does not allow this. … . I’m very sorry.”
Then Ms. Kuffel shared why she was saddened: “I think it’s excellent—the beauty of it and the history of it. I think it should always be maintained and presented because this is a part of a great history. Anything of quality that shows beauty and goodness should always be preserved.”
Reporting by Sherry Dong and Sharon Kilarski
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will perform at Chicago's Civic Opera House through April 24. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org