NEW YORK—Professionals from different sectors of the American community have praised Shen Yun Performing Arts and often highlight different aspects of the performance that relate to their interests. Famed fashion designer Donna Karan noted the elaborate costumes, renowned violinist Joshua Bell lauded the music, and Avatar Production Designer Robert Stromberg was inspired by the animated digital effects.
For Lenny Kasten, general manager of the United States Olympic bobsled and skeleton team—known as among the best in the world—it was the flexibility and talent of Shen Yun’s dancers that particularly impressed him.
“Very athletic,” said Mr. Kasten. “It is fantastic, excellent.”
The entire performance at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater on Sunday impressed and elicited high praise from Mr. Kasten.
“I have been around the world, and I’ve never seen a show like this,” said Mr. Kasten. “Very wonderful.”
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive the 5,000 year-old, divinely inspired Chinese culture, after it was almost wiped out during 60 years of communist rule, says the Shen Yun website. Classical Chinese dance, one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world, and one that goes back thousands of years, is at the heart of the performance.
Mr. Kasten said the audience was “actually very lucky today” seeing the high level dance form, and that it “opened a new door.”
“It’s impressive,” he added.
The company’s artists follow ancient traditions to elevate their craft to an unparalleled level.
“Indeed, more than just being accomplished artists, members of Shen Yun Performing Arts bring an unusual depth to their work,” explains Shen Yun’s program. “They take to heart an ancient Chinese belief: that to create true art, there must first be inner beauty.”
The internationally renowned company also includes contemporary scenes, of repression of freedom of belief in China, and the company is presently is unable to perform on the mainland.
“I like how the dancers show the attitude of the people to their freedom,” said Mr. Kasten. “You know, you don’t have to talk about this, you can see it. So it is very, very interesting.”
One dance, The Choice, portrays the country-wide persecution of the spiritual practice Falun Dafa, showing practitioners gathering in Tiananmen Square. Though following the ancient principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, they are beaten by police. The dance shows two friends—a girl who picks up a banner that says “Falun Dafa is good,” and a young man who was recruited into the police force. When the girl picks up the banner, the young man faces a choice, states the program book, whether to beat her, too, or forgo his official duty and protect her and the practitioners.
Mr. Kasten said the Chinese Communist Party “can’t suppress their people” and need to “allow the people to have some fresh air.”
“It’s such a wonderful country, has such a wonderful culture and history, but this is one obstacle that has be finally resolved,” he pointed out.
As for the overall message in Shen Yun, Mr. Kasten believes it is rich with meaning.
“I think freedom has universal meaning,” said Mr. Kasten. “The message on stage … was very powerful and very impressive actually.”
Reporting by Joshua Philipp and Zachary Stieber.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Upcoming performances in the United States include Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 24, and Columbus, Ohio, on April 26 and April 27.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.