CHICAGO— “It's just excellent. The women are so graceful and the men are so athletic. It's really excellent. I'm enjoying it immensely," said Chris Bamford. He works as a pensions director with a human resources company, and was visiting Chicago from Houston. Mr. Bamford was speaking of Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company, which he saw at the Civic Opera House, on April 21.
Shen Yun, a company aiming to revitalize lost arts and legends from China’s ancient past, achieves their mission through story-based classical Chinese dance.
Mr. Bamford considered the show dynamic, but in elaborating on his opening comments, he said, “The women are very graceful, so elegant and light in their performance. Their timing is impeccable. “
He said he enjoyed the way the male and female dancers came together, and that both genders were very skillful as dancers. “By graceful, I mean exactly that their movements are smooth. They're coordinated and of course they're in time with the music, so it's very enjoyable just to watch them.”
Shen Yun is known for its choreography and the precision of many performers on stage at once. Other audience members have enjoyed the grace of dancers seeming to float across the stage.
Many of these dances tell stories.
“I'm enjoying the history, the old stories, the mythology, if you like, and translating it into a modern presentation. I mean their old stories and the messages don't change with time,” he said. Shen Yun dances portray classic Chinese tales from history and from legends.
“For example, the school teacher who was persecuted, [Our Story] that's a story that's never changed with time, anyone trying to teach or develop new ideas is generally persecuted because of the fear of new ideas in a lot of cultures. So they are familiar stories, but presented in an entirely different way because I haven't seen much in the way of Chinese presentations before, so I'm really enjoying it,” he said.
Mr. Bamford was referring to a dance, inspired by a true account according to the program, in which a teacher is persecuted in China for sharing her spiritual beliefs.
He said the presentation gave him a new perspective: “It's enlightening … opening my eyes to see things done in a different way from what I might have imagined.”
One non-narrative dance he said he particularly enjoyed was the folk dance from northeastern China called Northeastern Drummers. In it, female dancers wear and play waist drums. The choreography uses traditional figure-eight arm and leg movements.
“I think I’m just enjoying it for what it is, that's a straightforward, uncomplicated series of stories that are presented very well indeed and the music is good, the dancing … and the costuming.”
Reporting by Sherry Dong and Sharon Kilarski.
Shen Yun Performing Arts New York Company will perform at Chicago's Civic Opera House through April 24. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org