COSTA MESA, Calif.—The design behind every costume displayed in Shen Yun Performing Arts is the result of countless hours of hard work and dedication to showcase authentic Chinese culture on stage. This was something interior designer Lisa Holt was able to see when she experienced the traditional dance and music performance.
“The costuming and the set is amazing. I mean it’s really quite extensive, and very impressive,” Holt said. “The way people move in the costumes is spectacular. … It’s coming off quite well because I know it’s meant to be a storytelling venue and the stories are nice, they’re simple of course, but what’s really coming off is the beauty of the design intention that went into creating all of it.”
Holt saw Shen Yun at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, on April 24. The New York-based company has a mission to revive China’s 5,000 years of semi-divine culture through performing arts.
As a designer herself, Holt said she understood the effort and commitment required to create designs that consummate a stage effect.
“I’m always so respectful of the work involved because I know, I have to do it as well, so I know what it’s like to get the … skirt the right length and the hem and the way the sleeves moves when they dance,” Holt said.
“I mean those are all incredibly important details because if they don’t come off the right way they won’t come off on the stage,” she added.
According to Shen Yun, traditional Chinese attire has its origins in the heavens. The ancient Chinese believed that immortals from celestial paradises reincarnated on earth as humans to play an important role in shaping China and its culture.
When they came down, they brought with them divine gifts to mankind—the wisdom of sages, skills, and inventions that allowed dynasties to prosper. And among these divine gifts was celestial garb.
This connection to the divine was what made historical Han clothing so multifaceted and rich in design, the company explains on its website.
A Culture That is Nearly Lost
Holt said it was sad that China lost significant portions of its culture and traditions in the last several decades.
During this time, China has experienced many movements aimed at eradicating 5,000 years of civilization and traditional culture. From cultural sites and temples to ancient relics and people’s beliefs, much of China’s history and spirit were destroyed after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized power.
The interior designer said it was important for people to preserve the forms of traditional art as they tell stories about their origins and their identity.
“All these forms of traditional arts like this are important both to tell stories about where people came from and who they were as a people then. It’s very important to know about and to preserve the history that way and it also makes you understand it; there is not a big difference between any of us,” she said.
Moreover, she added that she was able to relate to the ancient Chinese’s connection to the divine as she believes the arts are divinely inspired.
“I think all the arts are inspired divinely, I think that all creativity comes from a source or a resource that’s outside of ourselves and then we express it. So I think that is not unique to China,” she said.
“But Chinese obviously had many thousands of years to refine their expression which is great.”
With reporting by Yaning Liu.
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.