Contrasts in Shen Yun Are ‘Clever and Profound’

April 8, 2011 Updated: April 9, 2011

LONDON—Art and design teacher Isabella Locket was among the elated audience members watching Shen Yun Performing Arts at the London Coliseum on Thursday, April 7.

All the colourful handmade costumes in Shen Yun are inspired by the various dynasties and ethnic groups of historical China.

"It was absolutely delightful," said Ms. Locket. "I’m going to ring my nephew who loves costumes. It was absolutely exquisite. They look like they are almost flying!"

She was also impressed by the set, which includes digital backdrops to bring to life stunning scenes from ancient China. "It was very clever having the projections—the people flying out of the back. The precision of that was very clever," she explained.

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts seeks to revive the traditional Chinese culture, much of which has been lost in today's China under communist rule. Ancient legends are brought to life through story-based dances, as well as modern-day tales of courage.

The dances Our Story and No Regrets tell the story of a teacher and a mother and son affected by the persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline in China today.

"I teach, so the piece with the teacher and the mother and the son was extremely moving," she said.

For Ms. Locket the contrast was very powerful. "Everything is so delightful," she explains, "and then suddenly whack! there is very brutal evidence of brutality."

"There was a film that was a comedy that was made about the Second World War and because it was comedy it was more gut wrenching than if it had been straight. Tonight there's that contrast between the very delightful and exquisite artform which is then used to show this desperate situation—that contrast is very clever and very profound. I am sure it will have a great effect and spread people’s awareness, and hopefully knowledge—which is fantastic."

Classical Chinese dance is one of the most expressive and demanding dance styles, and the origin of ballet and acrobatics. Ms. Locket said that it was fascinating to hear that so much Western dance is based on classical Chinese dance.

East and West also come together in the music. The Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra play all new compositions every year. Ancient Chinese instruments—like the pipa and erhu—are played alongside Western classical instruments.

Ms. Locket said, "I loved the music—it was lovely to have that mixture of instruments. There’s an instrument that sounds like a small gong—its really lovely to have it. For the Western ear, to have the mixture is very clever."

Reporting by Shao Ying and Simon Miller.

Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will be at The London Coliseum from April 5–10. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org