CLAREMONT, Calif.—Shen Yun Performing Arts’s final performance at the Bridges Auditorium took place on April 10, mesmerizing its sold-out audience, and leaving Jack Baum in amazement.
“I’ve just experienced one of the most amazing show that I’ve seen, maybe ever, in my life. It was just incredible,” Mr. Baum said after watching the performance. “I’m grateful that I got to see it. It was just incredible.”
Mr. Baum is a retired musician who was trained in classical music. He retired as a senior vocational rehabilitation counselor after working 32 years for the California State Department of Mental Health. In his profession and with his empathy, he had assisted countless people with disabilities to achieve independence through employment.
Mr. Baum was amazed by and appreciated the world-renowned Shen Yun because of the high caliber of skills and talent of the entire cast, as well as the amount of work put into the production. He said, “It was just amazing. It was just unbelievable.”
A Shen Yun performance consists of 20 vignettes that are accompanied by a digital backdrop to set the scene, a live orchestra consisting of a unique blend of Eastern and Western instruments to set the tone, and 400 original and handcrafted costume pieces. These are in brilliant colors and used almost in a prop-like way to adorn the dancers who perform classical Chinese dance, as well as ethnic and folk dances.
“Through the universal language of music and dance, Shen Yun weaves a wondrous tapestry of heavenly realms, ancient legends, and modern heroic tales, taking you on a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture. Its stunning beauty and tremendous energy leave audiences uplifted and inspired,” according to the Shen Yun website.
As a musician playing music his whole life, Mr. Baum was thoroughly impressed by Shen Yun’s musicians: “The virtuoso players at every level, the string players, the brass players, the percussion players, they were all just virtuoso performers.”
The Shen Yun Orchestra is unique because it seamlessly combines classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments. Western instruments are used as the foundation, while Chinese instruments lead the melodies.
According to the company’s website: “Western strings, percussion, woodwinds, and brass accentuate the sound of ancient Chinese instruments—like the two-stringed erhu and the plucked pipa.”
At the heart of a Shen Yun performance is classical Chinese dance. It is known for its flips and spins and is one of the most expressive dance forms in the world.
Not only was Mr. Baum dazzled by their grace and beauty, he also admired the athleticism and the synchronization of Shen Yun’s highly trained and talented dancers. “I don’t know how [they] could be that synchronized. It must have taken hours of rehearsing to make everything perfect and in sync. Everything just came together perfectly.”
But what inspired and resonated with him the most was the spirituality of traditional Chinese culture articulated in the lyrics of baritone Qu Yue’s song “What You Are Here For.”
“It was very thought-provoking—a lot of important things to think about. So, that was a good thing. Where we came from, where we’re going, what life is about, those sort of messages,” he said. “We’re too hung up, too busy with our daily lives. We don’t really think about those things that much. So, I appreciated that, too.”
Traditional Chinese culture is rooted in spirituality, and was deeply influenced by Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. The ancient Chinese believed in harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind. But this culture has been nearly destroyed under the Chinese communist regime.
In 2006, a group of distinguished classical Chinese artists from around the world founded the independent, nonprofit Shen Yun Performing Arts in New York to revive the 5,000-year traditional Chinese culture.
Every year, Shen Yun tours across five continents, reaching millions. Despite receiving overwhelming, critical acclaim worldwide by artists and theatergoers, and having sold-out venues, Shen Yun cannot perform in China due to the communist regime’s censorship.
Mr. Baum was surprised by the oppression of spirituality in China, as portrayed through the performance. Two vignettes called “Monks and the Red Guard” and “The Steadfast Heart” depict the persecution of Buddhist monks and Falun Dafa practitioners in China. Both ultimately triumph through their peaceful faiths.
“One thing that struck me was that when [the host] said people in China couldn’t actually see this show. I didn’t realize that that sort of thing was going on. That’s too bad, because they should be able to see this too.”
Before leaving, Mr. Baum said once again, “This is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It was just incredible. I couldn’t believe the amount of talent, the skills involved, the dancing, the performances, the vocal performances, the orchestral performances, everything … It was just superb. One of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. … That was amazing.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Thanh Le
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.