HOUSTON—Emily and A.J. Righter were captivated by the movements. The unique hand gestures, the impression of weightlessness aided by the costumes; everything in Shen Yun Performing Arts was beautiful down to the details, and spoke volumes about a history of 5,000 years.
“I was very impressed by the motion, in particular, to watch even down to the end of their fingers, where their movement would stop. All the way up, like that,” Mr. Righter said. “Or the movement through their clothing, all the way out to the end, like that.”
The couple saw Shen Yun at Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston, Texas on Dec. 26. Mrs. Righter thought it would give them an overview of a history; she hadn’t realized her wishes were far simpler than what she would be seeing.
“I expected that they would be talented, but I didn’t expect the feeling. And just the learning, that I did not know so much of that,” Mrs. Righter said. The two of them had read up on Chinese dynasties on the past, but what they saw on stage was far more than a textbook entry. “We got so much more. This was so much more fulfilling than that.”
The program gives a bit of information on what dynasty the costumes in a dance originate from, or who the characters in any given story are. The emcees give a bit of information at the beginning of each piece too. It almost wasn’t necessary.
“I really loved how they would tell a story through their movements. We had a little bit of narration, but then we were able to understand what was going on just because they were so expressive,” Mrs. Righter said.
“It was beautiful and incredible and like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she said.
New York-based Shen Yun was founded in 2006 with the mission of reviving this once-lost traditional Chinese culture, and it aims to do so through music and dance. The dancers are all trained in classical Chinese dance, which has a history of thousands of years and, as the emcees explained, is, alongside ballet, the most comprehensive dance system in the world.
Shen Yun’s website provides more information on this rarely-seen art: It is famously expressive, made up of countless unique movement including difficult aerial techniques in addition to emphasizing the inner spirit of the artist.
The Righters felt it was this spirit that added something to the dance, making it such a moving experience.
“Relaxing yes, but sort of uplifting too,” Mr. Righter said, trying to describe the feeling of sitting in the audience. Traditional Chinese culture is filled with references to divinity, a foundational principle being respect for the heavens, and Mr. Righter found that inspiring to watch.
“It was just beautiful, it was just a beautiful thing to watch,” he said. Through the stories, he understood the ancient Chinese belief to be that humans were descended from heaven, and through goodness could find their way back. It resonated with, and inspired, his own beliefs.
“[It was] beautiful and inspiring,” he said.
With reporting by Sally Sun and Catherine Yang.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.