Shen Yun a Treat for Europop Star

April 22, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Classically trained singer Natascha Bessez and her companion Hunter Johansson enjoyed Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company at the Lincoln Center, April 21. (Courtesy of NTD Television)
Classically trained singer Natascha Bessez and her companion Hunter Johansson enjoyed Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company at the Lincoln Center, April 21. (Courtesy of NTD Television)

NEW YORK—Classically trained singer Natascha Bessez and her companion Hunter Johansson, brother of actress Scarlett Johansson, saw Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company at the Lincoln Center, April 21.

Ms. Bessez, an alumni of New York’s LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts, and now a Europop artist, loved Shen Yun, saying it brought her back to her classical training.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “I was trained classically … so for me this was a very big treat.”

Some of the sounds of the Chinese instruments in the Shen Yun Orchestra were familiar to Ms. Bessez. Yet the orchestra opened up a new realm of experience for her.

“It’s definitely beautiful,” she said. “It’s different—it’s something that as a New Yorker you don’t get to experience everyday.” 

Shen Yun presents traditional Chinese culture through short pieces of dance, song and music. Shen Yun’s 40-piece orchestra blends Chinese and Western classical instruments, and the company also features award-winning vocalists.

“Tenors, sopranos and other award-winning vocalists perform piano-accompanied solos, along with a regular favorite—the stirring melodies of the two-stringed erhu, also known as the Chinese violin,” the Shen Yun website says. These components, along with digital backdrops and handmade, colorful costumes, accentuate the heart of a Shen Yun performance—classical Chinese dance, one of the most comprehensive systems in the world.

The couple were impressed with the classical Chinese dancers.

“The dancing was beautiful,” Ms. Bessez said. “We loved the costumes, the costumes were gorgeous. It was special.”

Mr. Johansson, who is a community affairs manager in the city, working for the state government, agreed. The dance, Snowflakes Welcoming Spring, a northeastern folk dance using twirling sequined handkerchiefs to depict the change in season, caught his eye.

Like his partner, Mr. Johannsson particularly enjoyed the opera singers.

“The singing was amazing, really heart-felt, and came from a really special place,” he said. Soprano Haolen Geng who sings Speaking of Predestination and often performs an encore, was “pretty amazing,” he added.

Ms. Bessez agreed. “She was wonderful,” she said. “It was emotional.”

Shen Yun not only portrays scenes of ancient China up through different dynasties and eras, but also includes the struggles facing the country today, particularly those of Falun Gong practitioners persecuted for their faith.

“It definitely showed the character of the Chinese people,” said Ms. Bessez. “It was beautiful. It was very well-done.”

Reporting by NTD Television and Lillian Chang.

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. Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center through April 22.

For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.