NEWARK—Having been to China about 50 times, concert pianist Lenny Rosenbaum appreciates China’s “very rich, old” culture. After seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts, he could see that traditional culture come to life on stage through a “beautiful performance.”
Rosenbaum saw Shen Yun at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, during the evening performance on May 4. The New York-based traditional dance and music company is nearing the end of its 2019 tour. For several months, Shen Yun has been performing at sold-out shows at renowned theaters across the globe.
Through about 20 vignettes of dance, stories, and music, Shen Yun takes audience members on a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese civilization and history, giving them a glimpse into the beauty of an ancient culture.
Rosenbaum said he appreciated it because the culture is made up of an accumulation of wisdom from the ancient people and differs greatly with American culture.
“Chinese culture, they respect the old, and they respect the old ways, tradition, very good. And that really is the way that should be. You think about it, because, the wisdom of the ancient ways, the old people, is accumulated over centuries, and over an individual’s lifetime,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s totally a different take than traditional American.”
According to Shen Yun, ancient Chinese culture draws a lot of its elements from the divine. China was once known as Shen Zhou, or divine land, a term which describes a time where mortals and deities co-existed as well as an old belief that the divine transmitted a rich culture, through various dynasties, to the Chinese people, according to Shen Yun’s website.
The ancient Chinese were also heavily influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, where they strove to follow an upright moral path as they practiced their faiths. From these influences, concepts such as “respect the heavens to know one’s destiny,” and “man and nature must be in balance” gathered deep meaning over thousands of years of history, as did the five cardinal virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness.
As a musician, Rosenbaum had high praises for Shen Yun’s orchestra and musical pieces, as well as other elements that brought the performance together.
“The music was fabulous, and as a musician, I can tell you, the orchestra was wonderful, the costumes are wonderful. Very professional. And the timing ,they were on key, everything, the ensemble, beautiful performance, the costumes were beautiful, lively,” Rosenbaum said. “And I loved the way they integrated the visual, the projection screen, with actual live performers coming in and out. It was a very effective effect.”
Shen Yun’s orchestra is unique as it combines Eastern and Western classical instruments to create a distinct yet harmonious sound. A Western orchestra plays the foundation, while traditional Chinese instruments lead the melodies, according to Shen Yun.
Moreover, Rosenbaum enjoyed seeing the themes coming out of Shen Yun’s stories.
He said, “The stories were great as well. So it was a very complete experience. Audio, visual and the whole story, each one was a story, it was almost like an opera without words.”
Shen Yun’s stories showcase historical events, myths and legends passed down generation after generation, and modern day pieces portraying today’s real-life human rights abuses. These stories portray themes like spiritual devotion, the benevolence of gods, good and evil retribution, and the search for the meaning of life, according to the company’s website. These values are foundational to traditional Chinese culture and aim to inspire audience members to reflect on themselves and the world around them, just as Rosenbaum did.
“However one expresses their spirituality, we all do it in a different way, but at the end of the day, we have to realize that there are greater forces, that we: A. are subject to, and B. that we aspire to. And that was a good expression of that,” he said.
Rosenbaum said overall the performance was worth seeing and is looking forward to seeing it again.
“It’s worth seeing, it’s worth experiencing, and I look forward to the next version,” he said.
With reporting by Sherry Dong.
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.