SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—Three-time Emmy Award-winning actress Jean Smart, known for “Designing Women,” “Frasier,” and “Samantha Who?” returned to see Shen Yun Performing Arts for the fourth time with her daughter, Bonnie, at the Granada Theatre on Sunday afternoon, Mar. 26.
“I love this show myself, and I like sharing it with my daughter because she was born in China, and I think it’s important for her to see the history of China,” said Ms. Smart.
Although Ms. Smart has made a name for herself as a television actress, she began her career in the theater, so she is able to fully appreciate what goes into a theatrical performance.
“It’s an incredibly beautiful, entertaining show,” she said of Shen Yun.
Shen Yun was founded in New York in 2006 by a group of Chinese-Americans with the mission of reviving the true, divinely-inspired traditional culture of China through spectacular dance and music. Unfortunately, this 5,000-year culture has been nearly lost after many years of communist control.
Shen Yun itself still cannot be seen in China. However, in the United States and many other countries in the world, Shen Yun has the freedom to display this culture and the true history, both ancient and modern, of China.
Every year, Shen Yun presents an all-new production, featuring classical Chinese dance, story-based dances, folk dances, a live orchestra with both eastern and western instruments, vibrant costumes, an interactive digital backdrop, and musical soloists.
“I think this one was my favorite one so far,” said Ms. Smart of this year’s performance. “I just thought it was the best one I’ve seen so far.”
As an actress, Ms. Smart can see the variety of different skills needed by Shen Yun’s artists.
“Like good singers, good dancers are also actors. You express things through your dance. You don’t need to necessarily speak, so it’s still acting,” she said.
Ms. Smart says every year she is amazed at how graceful yet strong the young women dancers are, and how athletic yet graceful the young men are.
“It’s just astonishing,” she said. “It’s superb. The amount of work that goes into it, the amount of practice is mind boggling.”
Acknowledging the company’s mission, Ms. Smart said she could see why creating Shen Yun and preserving China’s divinely-inspired culture was so important for its founders.
“Having spent a little time in China, [I got] this attitude from some of the younger people there that religion, spirituality is something for the old people. It’s not something that’s relevant to them anymore,” she said.
“I think that’s really sad because everyone needs that in their life. Everyone needs some sense of spirituality, and some sense of history, and to lose that must be very painful to a lot of people from China.”
Ms. Smart and her daughter usually see Shen Yun in the Los Angeles area, but they found the best seats in Santa Barbara this year.
“We decided, ‘Well, that’s a good excuse to come up to Santa Barbara,’” she said.
When Ms. Smart’s eight-year-old daughter was asked if she liked the show, she replied, “Yes!”