SYDNEY—Banners flutter along a busy street near Sydney’s iconic Capitol Theatre, announcing the presence of the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company, Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company.
In the audience at the May 2 matinee was esteemed dance industry veteran Tanya Pearson, who runs a classical coaching academy and youth ballet in Sydney. She was with her daughter Nicole Sharp, the academy’s general manager, and both are counting the days left to May 6 when Shen Yun’s 2012 tour of Oceania comes to an end. They so want as many of their students to experience what they witnessed.
“I enjoyed very much the colourful production,” Ms. Pearson said. “It’s wonderful. It moves very fast, and it’s very entertaining. The dancers are obviously superb, they are wonderful, very well trained and disciplined. Beautiful to watch, I’m enjoying every minute of it.”
Shen Yun performers are selected from among the top classical artists in the world, the company website says. Every year, they come from all corners of the globe to an idyllic campus in upstate New York. This is where the mastery of their craft begins. And this is where a most magical revival of true Chinese culture begins.
Ms. Pearson admired the dancers—with what some have called “limitless bodies”—turn an intensely difficult art form into something beautiful and effortless, says the website.
“They’re wonderful, the men have so much vigour, so much energy and they seem to be putting their whole heart into it. The girls are very graceful, beautifully costumed and beautiful proportions,” Ms. Pearson said.
She said the dances were magnificently choreographed. “Very well thought out,” she said. Like “the dance with the sleeves, with the patterns and the ability to move all those sleeves in all those directions, and they are very graceful. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.”
The dance, Sleeves of Silk, so named for the long silken sleeves acting as extensions of a dancer’s arms stay lingering in the air long after a movement is finished, according to the program book. Otherwise known as “water sleeves” the effect is akin to fluttering wings, or trailing ripples.
But she was lost in amazement from the opening curtain, when in a scene, An Era Begins, soldiers are preparing for a battle between good and evil, according to the program.
“I didn’t expect quite such a large company. It’s just amazing,” she said.
Other aspects of the performance that impressed Ms. Pearson included the dynamic hi-tech projected backdrop scenes that complement the dance performances, adapted from a collection of Chinese legends, folktales and traditional stories, through to modern day China.
“It is wonderful … particularly the projection, when someone is moving in the projection and suddenly comes alive on the stage. The reproduction of the image from screen to reality is wonderful, particularly when those girls disappeared into the distance. It’s just beautifully thought out—obviously very—whoever produced the production,” Ms. Pearson said.
She admitted that she didn’t know very much about Chinese culture before arriving, but enjoyed listening and watching the stories unfold in classical, ethnic and traditional dance, song and music.
“I feel you don’t have to know anything about it. You can just sit back and enjoy the music and the movement, and nothing is too long and boring, you know this seems to be telling a story in every movement.”
As a professional dance teacher, Ms. Pearson admired the discipline of the dancers. All the jumping, turning, and flipping techniques, along with the exquisiteness of bearing and form, give classical Chinese dance expressivity that transcends ethnic, cultural and even linguistic barriers, states the company’s website.
“They are so disciplined and so are the formations, and every single movement is obviously so even, and well-rehearsed,” she said. “They work together so well.”
Her daughter, Nicole Sharp, was also “very pleasantly surprised.” “I came without much knowledge of the company, without expectations. So for me, it is interesting learning about the culture told through dance; it is beautiful. To sit there and see it told through these interesting stories, you can relate to it.”
Ms. Sharp also saw how the costumes were used to flow and accentuate a dancer’s movements.
“I think they’re tools as well, like the sleeves [aerial] patterns [they made] are beautiful. The uniformity, they work so well together, and a team so well-rehearsed that it’s just seamless.”
She was also impressed by the male dancers.
“To see so many male dancers on stage is already seeing so much energy of the boys, performing so well up there is fantastic. It’s such beauty and it makes us want to go back to the studio and rehearse our dances a lot more,” she said.
“I think it’s nice to see traditional history and methods of dance incorporated with modern technology, projection and incorporating fun into it, as well as making it entertaining,” Ms. Sharp said. Her memories of the colour, the energy and gracefulness of the dancers will remain for some time yet.
Reporting by De Ming and Raiatea Tahana-Reese.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will be in Sydney Australia through May 6.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.