NEW YORK—Shen Yun Performing Arts brought 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture to New York City on Thursday evening.
The 10-day engagement at the prestigious David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center will last until Jan. 16, and showcases the best of traditional Chinese arts and culture.
The 2011 show is brand new. Every year, the tour experiences a metamorphosis, emerging with new costumes, dances, and musical scores. The wealth of material from Chinese legends and the over 50 ethnic groups found throughout China—each with distinctive dance, dress and musical traditions—inspired the pieces.
“I knew nearly nothing about the traditional culture when I was brought up,” said Vina Lee, the company manager for Shen Yun Performing Arts on the eve of their Lincoln Center debut. Lee discovered a Chinese culture she says her generation has lost touch with under Communist rule. Lee has studied dance since she was a girl of 11 or 12. She graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy, but feels she found the true essence of dance in Shen Yun.
The word "Shen" means divine, while "Yun" means internal strength, explained Lee. She recognized, however, that the meanings are profound and difficult to translate precisely. The ancient culture of China was believed to be divinely inspired.
“We got all these values from the gods, we would say from the Buddhas,” said Lee. The dances are indeed set in a variety of scenes—from wheat fields, to the clouds, and from the shore of the South China Sea to a Buddhist temple.
In this year’s tour, noble women from the Qing dynasty take little steps with dainty chopine shoes in "Manchurian Elegance"; the waist drums of the Northeast folk dancers resound through the theater as silk ribbons on the drumsticks flutter to the beat; Lu Zhishen, described in the program as being “a rascally spirit and good heart," is expelled from a Buddhist temple for being drunk.
Deidre Featherstone, a jeweler, commented that the show has "amazing talent, amazing colors, it's just stunning." Ms. Featherstone attended Thursday evening's opening at Lincoln Center.
Wendy Maitland, managing director of Town Residential Real Estate, said of the show: “It was wonderful. I love the show. It was not only entertaining, but it was really enlightening and beautiful, and I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to come and see it.”
“It was really the dichotomy between the happiness and sadness, and really the illumination of the full range of the emotions and experience that’s portrayed in the entire experience,” she continued. “So it’s really that extreme, which was effective—the brutality against the backdrop of such beauty.”
“I think that it illuminates—it’s intended to illuminate,” Maitland described the pieces which portrayed China's brutal persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice rooted in ancient Chinese values of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. “And I think that it’s something that most Westerners honestly don’t understand currently and don’t know.”
Shen Yun Performing Arts will perform at David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center though Jan. 16. For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org