COSTA MESA, Calif.—”I was crying,” said retired dance teacher and choreographer Barbara Crawford on Sunday evening after watching Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Shen Yun is a relative newcomer in the world of classical music and dance. Based in New York, the company was founded in 2006 with a mission of reviving the 5000 years of true, divinely-inspired culture of China and sharing it with the world, according to the official Shen Yun website.
In fewer than 10 years, it has become a worldwide phenomenon, with four companies touring simultaneously around the world and performing an all-new program each year. The reactions from the audience have been powerful.
“I’ve taught dancing my whole life, and very rarely do you just see pure beauty,” said Ms. Crawford. “It made me feel pure and beautiful … It really needs to be seen.”
A Shen Yun performance features classical Chinese dance, an art form perfected over thousands of years, according to the Shen Yun website. Original classical music with both Chinese and Western elements complements each dance number, performed by a full, live orchestra. Musical soloists and a stunning projected backdrop complete the experience.
Every time the curtain opened during the performance, Ms. Crawford said she was struck by the vibrant colors and spectacular visual effects. She noticed the strength of the young men dancers, which gave a rich contrast to the softness of the women.
She was also amazed by the flow and drape of the costumes on the dancers and commented on how much fabric was necessary to get that look. She said most dancers nowadays wear very small, tight outfits, which don’t have the same effect.
“You don’t get that look anymore, visual stimulation with motion. It’s like painting a picture that’s moving,” she said.
According to the company website, “Throughout history almost every culture looked toward the divine for inspiration. Art was meant to uplift, bringing joy to both the people who created and experienced it. It is this principle that drives Shen Yun performers and their art.”
Ms. Crawford said her tears came during a part of the performance that displayed the essence of compassion: A young man who is beaten by authorities then rescues one of them who becomes hurt and carries him on his back to safety.
“Just thinking about it makes me want to cry,” she said.
“In this day and age, you don’t see things of beauty anymore,” said Ms. Crawford. “But this is ethereal. It’s gorgeous.”
Warms the Heart
Audience member Kimberly Gadlin is a faculty member at the Pomona College Dance Program. She studied with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York, and she has performed with Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre of Chicago and the Philadelphia Dance Company.
“I loved it,” said Ms. Gadlin. “It was so fulfilling.”
“Being a person who has danced all my life, I really could enjoy the synchronicity, I could enjoy the hard work that goes on behind the stage, behind the curtain, the work, the rehearsal, the classes, the discipline, the time away from family and friends, and the dedication you have to put in to be so supreme.”
Ms. Gadlin said her mother kept seeing advertisements for Shen Yun and really wanted to go, so the family bought tickets as a birthday present. Ms. Gadlin said she felt fortunate to have come to the performance.
Each part of Shen Yun touched Ms. Gadlin in some way. She praised the instrumental solist, who played the two-stringed erhu, and she loved the soprano solo singers.
“The way they were able to just capture the emotion of the words was so beautiful, and healing,” she said.
Ms. Gadlin said she was also impressed by the seamless combination of Western and Chinese instruments in the live orchestra, since combining different cultural elements can be difficult.
She noticed that the colors and movement of the costumes were matched perfectly with the backdrop, as well as the theme and choreography of each dance piece.
“The costumes were flawless,” she said. “They really took the time to think about what was the best way to bring forth the message that they wanted to convey, so the costumes were immaculate.”
Ms. Gadlin learned during the performance that Shen Yun means “the beauty of divine beings dancing,” and she said she saw that and felt the way the dancers expressed the spirit through the movement.
The overwhelming message she received from the performance was one of love.
“You have to love the passion that came from the movement,” she said. “But the overall thing is that you feel your heart being warmed, and that’s the only thing love can do—warm the heart … It was really fulfilling to my heart and to my soul.”
“What this company does is beautiful, and the fact that there are four touring companies was mind boggling,” said Ms. Gadlin.
With reporting by NTD Television, Zheng Qu, and Sarah Le
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006