From the moment the curtains start to rise and soft white fog spills off the dark stage, the anticipation is palpable.
Then the gong sounds.
The lights turn on and the stage is awash with gold and orchids, ceruleans, colors you can’t quite pin down, flowing from the costumes of dancers with impossible grace, who seem to have stepped out of a heavenly scene. There is a collective gasp, the music swells, and the audience is invited on a journey through 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture.
Every year, around the holiday season, New York-based Shen Yun (now with four companies) begins a worldwide tour, with Houston near the start of the trip. This year is no different.
This year will be Shen Yun’s 10th year touring the globe, and this tour will be the largest yet, with shows in 110 cities. It will be kicked off with a 12-performance run at Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston, Dec. 22 to Jan. 2.
For some, Shen Yun is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience that they walk away from feeling reborn. For others, it is the kind of performance they need to watch over and over again, like a favorite movie.
Over the years, Houstonians have shared their thoughts and feelings, their post-show exuberance, with Epoch Times. Whether it is their first or fifth time seeing Shen Yun, there always seems to be some surprisingly inspiring element.
Bob Dees, a retired petroleum company owner, had seen Shen Yun five times after he attended the 2013 performance in Houston during a visit. Yet he still planned to be home in San Diego in time for the next performance.
“It’s such a graceful performance,” Mr. Dees said. “I don’t miss it.”
“Something like this exposes us to a centuries-old culture. That is enlightening. It broadens your outlook on the world, really,” Mr. Dees said.
Alice Berlin has been a patron of Jones Hall since it opened and used to do administrative work for the Houston Ballet. She saw the 2015 season Shen Yun performance for the first time and wished to see it again.
“It was just a thrill—a beautiful, beautiful thrill,” said Ms. Berlin. “I absolutely loved it.”
Jean Pollock and Liz Boyd, who attended a matinee last year, felt Shen Yun had created a world of perfection.
“It was phenomenal, and a world I’d love to stay in,” Ms. Pollock said.
“This has been wonderful, wonderful,” Ms. Boyd said. “The height of art and perfection. This is human beings and their perfection.”
The performances are all new every year. Shen Yun performances consist of classical Chinese dance, folk and ethnic dances from China’s many ethnic minority groups, and bel canto solo vocalists, all accompanied by an orchestra that combines Chinese and Western instruments. A digital backdrop shows scenes from the heavens and from earth, from across China and through the dynasties.
And at the core of all the beauty and artistry of the performance is traditional Chinese culture. It is a culture that is divinely inspired and filled with principles like wisdom and propriety, benevolence, and the idea that good is rewarded while evil is punished. According to the company, these are beliefs reflected in every story, dance movement, and even the individually designed costumes.
“I feel like I have been to heaven and back,” said Deirdre Denise McClain, a longtime dancer and dance teacher, after seeing a 2015 performance in Houston. “That’s the gift they gave me.”
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.