NEW YORK—A group of New York-based artists started Shen Yun in 2006 with a vision: to revive authentic Chinese traditional culture.
Through classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun’s live orchestral music combining Western and Chinese instrumentation, and a digital backdrop that makes audiences feel as though they are transported, Shen Yun is bringing the traditional culture and its spirit to over 130 cities globally this season.
The global 2019 tour kicked off mid-December, and Shen Yun returned to Lincoln Center for its 13th run on Jan. 10–20 for 14 performances.
After seeing the opening night performance, journalist and radio host Rita Cosby said: “I think this is a message of courage. I give the people here performing tonight unbelievable respect and unbelievable praise. I pray that the people of China one day see it, because they deserve to see it, the world deserves to see it.”
Singer-songwriter Tomaczek Bednarek, who saw the Jan. 10 performance, said: “What’s magnificent is to know that this entire group have come here, resonating China, celebrating China, but they’ve come to the United States of America. They’ve come to the Western world to celebrate something so powerful and give voice to perhaps something they might not be able to do in their own country.”
It might be surprising to learn that the company that is safeguarding the ancient Chinese culture is based in New York, but what might be more surprising is that Shen Yun in accomplishing exactly the task they set out to do.
Singer Mark Paul, who attend the performance on Jan. 18, said: “[Shen Yun has] the highest level of storytelling that you can get. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a performance where the storytelling took me so effortlessly.”
Barbara Rosenblat, a distinguished narrator and actress, said, “The talent was top rate, top rate beautiful dancing, even the curtain calls, when they came out, and they just continued to thrill throughout the entire evening.”
Each season, the New York-based performing arts company’s touring groups—six this year—simultaneously tour the world, sharing a 5,000-year-old traditional culture that was shaped by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, and that has been oppressed in China since communism came to power.
“[What the Chinese regime] wanted to hide has been depicted on stage. … I didn’t quite realize that I would be taking the kids to see something so powerful,” said Monika McLennan, a philanthropist and patron of the arts, on Jan. 11.
Frank Cappuccio, CEO of Cybrarian Corporation, said on Jan. 13: “Certainly, this was heaven on earth. … All of the best dynasties, from early … China, believed that it was the emperor’s duty … the family’s duty, and the children’s duty to bring heaven on earth. I think that was beautiful, the way they brought that out.”
Central to traditional Chinese culture was the idea of harmony between man, heaven, and earth. And through Shen Yun’s depictions of history and of myth, the audiences felt that.
This year, the pieces performed include characters from the classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West,” as well as Ming Dynasty imperial guards, Tang Dynasty ladies in long waterfall-like sleeves, Buddhist monks, Mongolian horsemen, the moon goddess Chang’e, and many more.
“You understand thousands of years of culture through dance. … The show was just a complete education to the culture, to the history of China,” said Doug Raetz, CEO of True Capital Management, on Jan. 11.
Victor Zammit, former national director of tax at Ernst & Young, called the show “very artistic, very creative, very romantic, absolutely beautiful.”
“I wish my grandson was old enough to enjoy this. … He would enjoy it very much,” he said on Jan. 17.
Thomas Boyer, COO at Innovation, said on Jan. 12, “I’d say it’s the highest level of performance that I’ve seen.”
Among the audience were repeat members as well, including former Panama Ambassador to the U.N. Mary Morgan-Moss, who brought her daughter this time and said, “I’m going to recommend it to everyone.”
Artists present in the audience took inspiration as well. “It was mind-blowing,” said dancer and choreographer Kimberly Fitch, praising the emotive quality of classical Chinese dance and the skill of the performers. “I thought it was absolutely amazing.
Kurt Nikkanen, concertmaster of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, knew many of the orchestra members performing, and felt they were not only skilled but communicated a greater message through their art. He said everyone could take as a lesson the “positive energy” projected by the Shen Yun performers.
“We need to focus a little bit on inner training and try to better ourselves,” he said. “That’s what the human race needs right now.”
Terri Seppala, president of Telehealth Associates, said on Jan. 16: “I think the dancing is outstanding. The culture that we experienced is phenomenal. I am really loving it.”
Shen Yun presents a completely new program every year, with a production of about 20 vignettes of dance, story, and sometimes solo musical performances.
During one performance’s intermission, audience member Paul Rosengard, president of Anatwine, said: “I am enjoying the backdrops, the scenery in the back and the very subtle movement. … [It’s] very clever and very well done.”
James Lynch, VP of sales at Octagon Merchandise, summed up the performance: “It’s just unique; you can’t find anything else like it.”
For those who missed Shen Yun’s January performances in New York, the company will return to Lincoln Center on March 6 to 17, for 15 matinee and evening performances. It will be the last time that this year’s production will be presented in New York.
With additional reporting by NTD Television.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the most significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.