GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—“I kept having thoughts of: this is beauty, truth and wisdom all throughout the whole thing,” said Roselle Havens after seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts. The retired educator praised the entire performance at the DeVos Performance Hall on Wednesday night, Feb. 12.
Shen Yun, based in New York, is a company devoted to revitalizing 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. It showcases two kinds of dance: classical Chinese dance, which is a vehicle for presenting the history, legends and myths of China, and folk dances, which highlights China’s many ethnic minorities.
“I think the women are just beautiful; they just move like swans,” said Ms. Havens, describing the dancers. She has taught kindergarten through college, was a principal for Rockford Public Schools, and taught education at Grand Valley State College in Allendale.
“It was marvelous. All the [dancers] were in wonderful condition,” she said.
Ms. Deborah Havens came with Ms. Roselle Havens. She said, “Yes, it was incredible grace, so very uplifting.” She said she thought Shen Yun was a very enjoyable way to gain her first experience with Chinese culture.
Ms. Deborah Havens explained that she has had four careers. She is currently a screenwriter, formerly was a TV producer, and also an educator. She has a doctorate in education.
“It’s very inspiring. It is a beautiful example of the best of the culture, … the traditions of the culture,” Ms. Deborah said.
“I was glorified by the beauty of the costuming,” Ms. Roselle said. “A lot of silk, just one or two velvets and cotton, but everything glittering with careful designs, just moved with the characters, so that it was graceful, beautiful.”
“Shen Yun’s costume artists collect countless designs of traditional attire, ranging from those of emperors, ministers, and generals to the everyday clothing of the common people. They use bright colors to tailor and recreate hundreds of new pieces each season. Every detail is given meticulous attention and is a result of artistic inspiration and careful polishing,” reads Shen Yun’s website.
Ms. Roselle said how much she enjoyed the digitally-animated backdrop: “I was extremely impressed with the backdrops. I never saw backdrops move like that, with such precision, they were timed to the nth degree. It was marvelous.”
“The creativity was wonderful,” Ms. Deborah said.
A full orchestra supports Shen Yun’s dancers; the orchestra combines the beauty and distinctiveness of Chinese sounds with the power and precision of a Western orchestra
“One of the things I said to Deborah was ‘Do you realize how easily we’ve adapted to this music because it’s being played by [Western] instruments?’ Ms. Roselle said.
“I was awfully impressed,” she continued. “I don’t know how you pronounce that instrument, but the woman who played a two string instrument [erhu] got so much music out of that. It was just beautiful.”
In between some dances are songs or instrumental solos. The vocalists sing in Chinese and the translated lyrics are projected on the screen behind them.
Ms. Deborah felt some of the music, the lyrics in part, were a metaphor “in a way, for fighting the red communist influence. “ She mentioned the lyrics, “the lies, don’t be overcome by lies,” and “This is the song you’ve been waiting for.”
She was referring to the fact that Shen Yun is not allowed into communist China. During the communist’s Cultural Revolution, the Party repressed and usurped traditional arts.
Describing the vocalist’s accompaniment, Ms. Deborah said, “The pianist was just excellent.”
“Oh, she should have had a solo; she was marvelous,” Ms. Roselle agreed.
Ms. Deborah produced the TV show PM magazine in the national office in San Francisco. She is the founding chair and on the board of directors for the West Michigan Film Video Alliance, is the executive producer of Feel Like You Belong, a producer of Traveling Moon Productions, and the CEO/Partner of Film Friendly Michigan, LLC.
Reporting by Joan Wang and Sharon Kilarski
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.