‘Every color is a special color’ in Shen Yun Says KC Developer

February 1, 2012 Updated: August 14, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Shen Yun “is beautiful! There are no regular colors, no primary colors and every color is a special color,” said Mr. Paul Copaken about Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company’s performance held at Music Hall on Jan. 31. “The blending of the [costume] colors and the backdrop is just beautiful. I am impressed.”

“I know very little about the Chinese culture, so this is a good lesson for me,” Mr. Copaken said.

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts’ mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture by storytelling through classical Chinese dance and traditional ethnic and folk dance. But the company is highly acclaimed as well for its costumes, original orchestral music, renowned vocal soloists, and interactive high technology backdrops.

Traditional culture in China was almost completely destroyed by the 60-plus-year rule of the Chinese Communist Party, especially during the Cultural Revolution. 

Mr. Copaken, a commercial real estate developer whose family-owned business has built some of the largest buildings in Kansas City and Missouri, attended the performance with his wife, Bunni, and sister, Shirley White.

For 28 years, the Copakens have been major contributors to the Kansas City theater scene, bringing generous civil service and financial support to such organizations as the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (KCFAA) and the youth-based AileyCamp.

Mrs. Copaken is the interfaith, 2012 Evelyn Wasserstrom Award recipient. The award recognizes work on behalf of minorities and oppressed people. Mrs. Copaken was honored for her dedicated community volunteerism with such groups as KCFAA, AileyCamp, Jewish Heritage Foundation, and the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

 “I thought [Shen Yun] was beautiful, very unusual,” Mrs. Copaken said. “[The dancers] are so precise, so identical in their movements. It’s just great.”

Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company.  With its thousands of years history, classical Chinese dance “is a complete system of dance embodying traditional aesthetic principals,” according to the Shen Yun website. 

The precision of the dancers, their skill and dedication impressed Mr. Copaken and Ms. White, too.

“Their precision is amazing,” Ms. White said. “Their determination to be so perfect—you have to really work at that.”

“The short steps, the foot movement are very precise, but very short, where as … ballet [takes] much bigger steps,” Mr. Copaken said.

Control and discipline were the words he used to further describe the dancers’ body movements. “The traditional dance must be very much more controlled than the modern ballet or even traditional ballet. The key words are control and discipline, both.”

Mrs. Copaken took from Shen Yun a better understanding of classical Chinese dance. “I know the modern dance, but I am not familiar with the form of Chinese dancing, so I’m learning.”

Reporting by Peng and Cat Rooney.

Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company in one of three companies simultaneously touring the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture.

For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.