COSTA MESA, Calif.—Larry Macklin, a retired project manager for a global tech company, brought his wife, Barbara, to see Shen Yun Performing Arts April 16 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
He felt fortunate to watch the performance and referred to Shen Yun as a pearl amidst the current of popular culture, which doesn’t emphasize classical art forms.
“I think we’ve allowed popularity to dominate the media too much, and I think we miss these pearls that come along,” he said.
He feels it’s important for people to have the opportunity to learn about other cultures.
“I think that the more you are exposed to these things, the broader appreciation of arts and performing arts, in particular, you can appreciate. So it’s important to participate in things like this,” he said.
“Spectacular. Spectacular,” Mrs. Macklin said of Shen Yun. She appreciated seeing the beauty, color, and use of technology to “really get a feeling for the whole culture.”
A Shen Yun performance primarily includes classical Chinese, folk, and ethnic dances, along with vocal and instrumental soloists. Through approximately 20 vignettes, audience members are transported to heavenly realms, underwater kingdoms, and historical sites that have formed China’s 5,000 years of culture and civilization. A massive, digital projection serves as the backdrop of each vignette and make audience members feel as if they were personally witnessing Chinese history.
Based in New York, Shen Yun has four companies that tour the world. Its mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture, which has been nearly lost after decades of communist rule.
Maintaining cultures is important to Mr. Macklin. He feels that looking at and learning about other cultures can serve as mirror for all people and can aid in self-understanding.
“It’s a part of human history. It’s a part of who we are, and I think our own views are very limited,” he said. “So, the more we’re exposed to other things, the more broader we can view things and paint a more complete picture of ourselves.”
Despite Shen Yun’s resplendent beauty, consummate production value, and earning critical acclaim throughout the world, the company cannot perform in China because of the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship and repression of artistic expression.
Mr. Macklin feels that Shen Yun’s performers are brave.
“I think it’s extremely brave to not only bring back the culture, but also tell the truth,” he said. “I think the bravery of what’s being done is also very notable.
Dancers’ Athleticism is Subtle, Quiet, but Powerful
Another audience member enjoying Shen Yun’s matinee performance April 16 was Gary Bukalier, an entrepreneur who owns businesses around the world. He came to Segerstrom Center for the Arts to watch Shen Yun with his granddaughter and four of her friends.
“They’re all teenage girls and they’re just loving this because of the colors. The athleticism is out of this world. It’s fantastic,” he said.
He felt that the dancers were telling a story. “It’s so light and uplifting you can’t help but smile through it and try to relate that to the movements of the dancers. It tells a good story,” he said.
Indeed, classical Chinese dance is highly expressive. Its movements, postures, techniques as well as the inner feelings of the dancers can convey one’s emotional state and even moral values.
Shen Yun’s website states that Chinese dance “is able to transcend ethnic, cultural, and even linguistic barriers, taking this well-established Chinese culture and presenting its essence to the world.”
Audience members often comment about the lightness of Shen Yun’s dancers; the women seem to float on stage, and the men and women always land softly.
Mr. Bukalier was struck by this. “The athleticism is so subtle and quiet but powerful,” he said. “It’s so peaceful and quiet you don’t really understand the athleticism and power of these men and women. It’s incredible.”
Mr. Bukalier once traveled through parts of China on a motorcycle. When he traveled to Lhasa, he could feel the deep spirituality within traditional Chinese culture.
One particularly moving piece of the performance for Mr. Bukalier was “Monks and the Red Guard,” which portrays an instance during the Chinese Communist Party’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in which zealous Red Guards attempt to destroy a Buddhist temple but are thwarted by monks who possess supernatural powers along with martial arts skills.
“It brought back a lot of memories for me of the tragedies in the monasteries,” he said, referring to his travels to Tibet.
Mr. Bukalier highly recommends Shen Yun.
“I wish that everybody had the opportunity to see something like this in person.”
Reporting by Jane Yang, Marie-Paul Baxiu, and Albert Roman
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.