NEW YORK—About a year ago, Broadway producer Patricia Mahoney watched a documentary in which an incredible ensemble had blended ancient Chinese instruments with a full symphony orchestra.
This unique blend was the work of the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, which accompanies the classical Chinese dance of Shen Yun Performing Arts to bring to life as never before 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.
As a classically trained pianist, Mrs. Mahoney’s interest was piqued. She knew how difficult it must have been to blend the sounds of East and West. After all, it had never been done on such a scale before Shen Yun.
But tickets were sold out and she had to wait until this year. After seeing the New York-based company perform at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on Jan. 14, she said, “It was beautiful, beautiful.”
The ancient Chinese culture revived by Shen Yun is believed to be divinely inspired, which resonated with Mrs. Mahoney because, as she said, she is a spiritual person.
For Mrs. Mahoney, the spiritual culture, highlighted with themes such as compassion and magic, was presented in an artfully produced performance. And she is no stranger to large-scale, artistic productions.
Mrs. Mahoney and her husband, Ken Mahoney, of Mahoney Asset Management, just finished putting on Pippin and are currently producing On the Town. They are also preparing to bring American in Paris to Broadway next.
“They are so graceful, and the athleticism of the dancers is unbelievable. Really something else,” she said.
Shen Yun’s dancers perform classical Chinese dance, a vast and independent system of dance, and folk and ethnic dances from China’s many ethnic minority groups.
“Soaking up profound wisdom from every era and dynasty … [classical Chinese dance] has become a complete system of dance embodying traditional aesthetic principles with its unique dance movements, rhythms, and inner meaning,” Shen Yun’s website explains.
And when the musicians Mrs. Mahoney had been waiting for graced the stage, they did not disappoint. In addition to the orchestra that accompanies the performances, musical soloists also perform.
The sopranos were beautiful, the accompanying pianist was fantastic, and the expressive erhu player was amazing, Mrs. Mahoney said. “She was unbelievable, unbelievable.” The erhu is a two-stringed instrument similar to a violin.
Her friend Valerie Littenberg, who owns a transportation and logistics company, attended the performance with her. For Ms. Littenberg, it was full of connections.
“There is a very strong connection with nature, and how nature impacts what goes on with the persons themselves, their beliefs, and how it is transcended from themselves into nature and around them,” Ms. Littenberg said.
She noted two very different pieces. One was a folk dance in which the female dancers spun and threw glittering pink handkerchiefs representing plum blossoms. And the other was a Chinese dance story set in the modern day, in which a group of people exercise their freedom of speech and belief despite censorship and persecution.
For her, they both showed what Chinese culture really is.
The emcees had explained that since Shen Yun was established in 2006, it has not been allowed to perform in China. Chinese culture is said to be divinely inspired, but the traditional culture was all but destroyed under the current communist regime, an officially atheist regime, explains the Shen Yun website.
“The Chinese culture needs to continue and be recognized in the United States and around the world,” Ms. Littenberg said. “Other people here in the United States and around the world need to see it and know … I like the fact that they share with the audience, their personal feelings of what is going on in China, and share it with everyone else.”
“It is their history,” she said.
Reporting by Wei Yong and Catherine Yang
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.