PHILADELPHIA—Music teacher Stacie-Anne Hannawacker had been dying to see Shen Yun Performing Arts for the past four years, and after finally experiencing it at Philadelphia Merriam Theater on Feb. 10, she gave the performance a 10 out of 10.
“It was phenomenal from start to finish,” Hannawacker said.
Shen Yun Performing Arts is the premier classical Chinese dance company that tours the world every year to re-capture 5,000 years of Chinese culture on-stage for modern audiences.
Hannawacker, who has taught music in schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and worked at theater and dance companies, praised the artistic expression conveyed through the entire production, such as the clever use of the 3-D backdrop and the way the costumes were incorporated into dance pieces.
Having trained in dance herself, Hannwacker said the performers were well-trained, which was evident from the precise execution of the dance movements, as well as overall stage presentations.
She noted that Chinese dance differed from Western dance forms in many respects, including its hand motions and positions which are not found in Western styles of dance.
Classical Chinese dance is an ancient art form honed through thousands of years of evolution. Besides a rigorous physical component which includes difficult flips and tumbling techniques, classical Chinese dance requires artists to perfect their character so as to convey their inner world through the physical expressions.
In addition, many of the dancers practice a Chinese spiritual discipline known as Falun Dafa. The practice includes a set of meditation exercises as well as a set of teachings which revolves around the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance, which practitioners seek to apply in their daily lives.
Hannawacker was able to feel this from the dancers.
“You can just tell: the way they glow when they walk, and just the way they carry themselves,” she said.
“They are very compassionate people within each other. The way they related to the audience, and just to see the dancers expressions and the looks on their face, you can tell they were trying to exude compassion and get us understand the stories.”
Stories Connected With Modern Audience
Hannawacker also enjoyed how ancient Chinese stories were brought to life non-verbally through dance and music.
As a mother, Hannawacker was particularly touched by the depiction of the classic Chinese romance known as “Butterfly Lovers.” In that story, a daughter who wants to study instead of getting married runs away from home and dresses up as a boy to attend school.
“Everybody wants something particularly for their child, but the child wants to do something much different from what the parents want for them. It’s about going off and get[ing] what you want,” she said.
“I feel a lot of about the story lines carrying through the modern day.”
She said even her 8-and-a-half-year-old daughter, who also watched the performance, was able to draw connections between the stories and other Western tales. Her daughter told her that one piece called “The Ties of Affection, the Tao of Destiny” reminded her of Romeo and Juliet
“It was a new story for her from a totally different land of Romeo and Juliet, but it connected to American culture. It was phenomenal,” Hannawacker said.
The messages conveyed by the vocalists also touched the music teacher. The lyrics sung by the classically-trained soloists spoke about the divine, compassion, and the afterlife, said Hannawacker.
The songs told people what they needed to do to ensure a blessed future, she said.
“You stay away from the bad, you will go where you need to go.”
With reporting by NTD Television and Cathy He.
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.