Shen Yun Gives Professor a ‘Tsunami of Insight’ Into Chinese Culture

April 17, 2016 Updated: April 17, 2016

COSTA MESA, Calif.—Edward Ussery, a mathematics and physics professor at Platt College, attended Shen Yun Performing Arts for the second time on Saturday at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and called his experience “profound, entertaining, singular.”

“I found it very exciting,” said Mr. Ussery. “I couldn’t sit back in my seat. I was leaning forward the whole time.”

Founded in New York in 2006, Shen Yun has grown a significant body of fans. The company seeks to revive the 5,000-year traditional, divinely-inspired culture of China through the classic art forms of music and dance and showcases an all-new production, complete with original music composition, costuming, and dance choreography every year.

Mr. Ussery, who is also a digital animator, artist, and former musician, is fascinated with Chinese culture and Eastern philosophies. He is compelled by the ancient religious practices of Buddhism and Taoism, which flourished in China during the Tang Dynasty from 618–907 A.D., widely considered the peak of Chinese civilization.

He is also learning Mandarin, taking calligraphy classes, and studies the history and current events of the Chinese nation.

He last attended Shen Yun in 2011. But since Mr. Ussery’s understanding of Chinese culture has increased substantially since then, he said his experience this time was much more powerful, giving him “a tsunami of insight.”

“Now I’m able to pick up on some of the more profound messages that are being put out,” he said. “It’s challenging, invigorating, and the future is going to be very exciting for China.”

A Shen Yun performance highlights the ancient and independent classical Chinese dance, a very expressive dance form with both gentle, flowing movements and powerful flips and spins. The deep cultural traditions of China are contained in this dance, and the artists are able to portray all characters and scenes from any time period in a strikingly vivid way, according to the Shen Yun website.

A series of these dance vignettes, accompanied by Shen Yun’s unique East meets West orchestra, tell the myths and legends of Chinese history, as well as modern heroic tales.

As a former clarinet and saxophone player, Mr. Ussery said the music was beautiful.

The colorful costumes and vibrant backdrops were very visually engaging for Mr. Ussery, who said he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the stage. He also loved the interaction of the performers with digital animation in the backdrop, making characters appear to dance on stage in one moment, and fly in the air in another. As a digital animator himself who has animated for Harvard Medical School, the professor said it was flawless.

Mr. Ussery was very engaged by a dance piece called “Poets of the Orchid Pavilion,” where a group of scholars drink wine and compose poetry, using fans to mimic their scholarly brushes. Meanwhile, one of the greatest works of Chinese calligraphy appear character by character on the backdrop behind them, and the professor could read some of the characters.

“It was a lot to take in,” he said.

He also practiced his Mandarin while listening to Shen Yun’s soloist singers, whose Chinese lyrics and their English translations are projected onto the backdrop.

These singers’ lyrics spoke of “divinity, evolution versus creation, powerful themes that resonate deeply within human consciousness,” said Mr. Ussery.

“I find those issues, the fact that those issues are being confronted and addressed in such a high forum, to be something that brings this beyond entertainment and gives you something to take with you,” he said.

Overall, Shen Yun inspired Mr. Ussery to “think about the values that are deep and very important to the Chinese people,” he said.

He also said he is thinking of coming back to see this same Shen Yun performance again this year.

“I’m going to get better tickets this time,” he said. “I’m going to get closer to the stage.”

Reporting by NTD Television and Sarah 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.