“It was unbelievable,” said Judy Swaim, who co-owns a music publishing company with her husband. “I didn’t know that the human body could do that.”
The core of a performance by the New York-based Shen Yun is classical Chinese dance, an ancient art that drew movements, rhythms, and inner meaning from every era and dynasty, according to the company’s website.
“Classical Chinese dance is composed of three main parts: bearing, form, and technical skill, it states. “Other than complete training in the fundamentals, it also entails systematic training in movements and postures, as well as very difficult jumping and tumbling techniques. And so, alongside ballet, classical Chinese dance is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world,”
“It’s fantastic—unbelievable!” said Mrs. Swaim. “I didn’t know that you can jump that high, and just so perfectly coordinated. Everything was just choreographed beautifully. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The traditional, divinely-inspired culture that Shen Yun presents on grand stages around the world, including New York’s Lincoln Center, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and The London Coliseum, barely survived a series of campaigns under communist rule in China, according to Shen Yun’s website. To revive this ancient cultural treasure, Shen Yun has three companies that each boast a dance group, an orchestra, solo singers and musicians, including many winners of international dance and vocal competitions, and musicians from famed symphonies and conservatories.
Handcrafted costumes are another aspect of Shen Yun, one that pleased Mrs. Swaim.
“The combination of the colors I wouldn’t have put together, [yet] they just seem so beautiful,” said Mrs. Swaim. “And the snowflake and the lotus flowers, I don’t see how they did that,” she added, referring to dances, Snowflakes Welcoming Spring and Lotus Leaves.
Being a part of the music industry, the couple particularly enjoyed Shen Yun’s orchestra, which combines classical Western with traditional Chinese instruments, such as the 4,000-year-old erhu, or two-stringed Chinese violin.
“I was familiar with some of the instruments, but to put the Western and the Eastern together was just something new,” Mrs. Swaim said.
The music “was beautiful,” said her husband, Jon, who could recognize the sounds of some of the instruments.
Mr. Swaim felt like he learned a lot about Chinese culture.
“This was educational, graceful, [and] beautiful” he said. They are looking forward to next year’s performance already. “We will be back,” said Mrs. Swaim.
Reporting by Wei Han and Zachary Stieber.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform three shows in Tampa, Florida, at The David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts on March 3-4.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org