PHILADELPHIA—Shen Yun Performing Arts left the audience at Philadelphia’s Merriam Theatre on May enthusiastic after the evening performance.
“The talent is incredible from beginning to end,” said photographer Barbara Friedman. “I’ve never seen the show, but it took my breath away, totally took my breath away!”
New York-based Shen Yun traverses the globe on a mission—”to revive the 5,000 year old, divinely inspired culture of China,” according to the company’s website, as well as “the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture, with its values of benevolence, honor, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity, as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens.”
Dancers trained in one of the most comprehensive dance systems in existence—classical Chinese dance—are adorned with vividly-colored handmade costumes, and accompanied by digital backdrops, award-winning vocalists, and an orchestra that deftly joins classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments, explains the website.
“Beautiful music, beautiful costumes, and a very happy show,” said Nadine Novak, a designer who joined Ms. Friedman at the performance.
Shen Yun’s website describes how the orchestra achieves a fresh, harmonious sound: “A Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation, while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies. The sound produced is uniquely pleasing to the ear. The ensemble at once expresses both the grandeur of a Western orchestra and the distinct sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization.”
“Loved it, just beautiful,” said Ms. Friedman. “I was fascinated with [the Chinese instruments].”
Although the pair of old friends enthused about the cultural revival, they lamented the fact that Shen Yun can’t currently be seen in China because the Chinese Communist Party opposes traditional culture and its profound values. Ms. Novak, hailing from Ukraine, remembers the history of communism all too well.
Several dances depict the persecution of Falun Gong in modern-day China.
“Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is guided by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has helped over a hundred million Chinese people understand and return to the essence of traditional Chinese culture—Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist schools of thought,” explains Shen Yun’s website. “And yet, the Chinese Communist Party, whose regime and ideology are in stark contrast with the traditional culture of China, has targeted Falun Gong for persecution.”
Ms. Friedman said she finds the persecution of Falun Gong “so brutal.”
Yet the performance was ultimately an uplifting time for the women.
“It opens up your eyes to a lot of things,” said Ms. Friedman.
“We don’t know much about China, it’s been closed for so long,” said Ms. Novak, adding that the cultural revival “is wonderful.”
“This is amazing,” she added. “Wonderful experience. It’s very rich culture.”
Ms. Friedman said she would tell her friends that watching Shen Yun perform is “an experience to remember.”
Reporting by Lillian Chang 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. The season concludes this month with performances in Honolulu and Buffalo.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
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