Dancer: ‘You can’t compare [Shen Yun] to anything’

January 6, 2014 8:06 pm Last Updated: January 6, 2014 11:54 pm

FORT WORTH—Hannah Setu and her daughter Rosanna Setu are dancers who have studied a variety of forms, including many Asian ethnic dances. Seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Jan. 5, the mother and daughter felt revived and inspired.

“The serenity and the presence of the dancers were very focused, and they show love,” Mrs. Setu said. “They truly emit strong passion and devotion, and I mean passion in the sense that they were so serene, but they have much power.”

Mrs. Setu has over 30 years of dance experience and now teaches Bollywood style dance, as well as Reiki self-care for dancers, a Japanese stress relief and spiritual technique.

Ms. Setu has won many awards locally and performs Middle Eastern dancing.

“This weekend we’re actually preparing for a performance, and watching this show totally inspired me. All the ethnic background and culture just really inspired me,” Ms. Setu said.

Seeing the traditional Chinese culture revived by New York-based Shen Yun, along with the many ethnic and folk dances from the many minority groups of China, Ms. Setu was inspired to think of incorporating a cultural essence into her dance.

Along with ethnic and folk dances, like the Mongolian chopsticks dance, Shen Yun primarily performs classical Chinese dance. The form is a vast and independent system in and of itself, having been passed down and refined through the dynasties.

As Shen Yun’s website explains, dance is part of human culture, and classical Chinese dance embodies the deep traditional values of China, lending it to rich expressiveness.

Seeing classical Chinese dance was new for mother and daughter.

“To see the unity, it was very uplifting, and it was very beautiful,” Mrs. Setu said. “You can still see the uniqueness of each dancer, so we see the styles between all of the cultures.”

In various dances, Shen Yun performers used props such as long, flowing “water sleeves,” chopsticks, handkerchiefs, or long fans for the different dances from the various settings and periods of China.

“Being able to wield something in your hand is not easy, and I would love to see anybody try that,” Mrs. Setu said. “Dancing with a prop, it’s very difficult, but they did that beautifully.”

Ms. Setu said that having most of her dance experience in ballet, she recognized the classical forms, but also saw that classical Chinese dance was inherently unique.

“They just have something extra, something deep inside them that their background, their culture, everything that China is—they brought it out in their dance,” Ms. Setu said. “You can’t compare it to anything, it was just so beautiful and incredible.”

The culture wasn’t just brought out in the dance, Ms. Setu said, but in all aspects of the performance. The orchestra and the bel canto solo vocalists did so as well.

During the solo performances of the sopranos Tiangling Song and Haolan Geng, Ms. Setu said she had read the translation of the lyrics on the digital backdrop and was moved nearly to tears as they spoke not just to her, but to everyone.

“I felt such a deep sense of humanity and connection to everyone because I think that’s something everyone can relate to,” she said, remembering a particular lyric. “That was so beautiful. … It really made me feel something.”

Mrs. Setu, who has been searching for spiritual growth all her life, said the culture she saw Shen Yun revive impacted her on a very personal level. From a young age, she traveled across Asia, searching for something spiritually uplifting from cultures thousands of years old.

“No one would argue that there must be something right about it and the feelings there, even if we don’t understand the meaning of it,” she said of the traditional Chinese values that came through the performance. “I admired that, I was touched by that, and I was uplifted by it.”

“At some point, I think it’s beyond culture, and it is even before culture. So it’s something we can all be touched by even if we didn’t actually grow up in the language, in that direct culture,” she said.

Mrs. Setu said if she could speak to the performers, she would want to thank them.

“Thank you for sharing, thank you for bringing the East and West together,” she said. “In the West with all the different energies, [thank you for] finding that bridge, common bond, and bringing that to us, and being able to travel in our world and bringing yours to us and being a part of us.”

Reporting by John Chang and Catherine Yang

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.

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.