PHOENIX—James Hamm and his wife, Donna Leone Hamm, were clearly moved after watching Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Orpheum Theatre on April 5, 2016. They were happy to share their experience, but both felt they needed time to process and more fully understand it.
Mrs. Hamm, a former Justice Court Judge who is the executive director of Middle Ground Prison Reform and the owner of her own criminal justice consulting firm, said, “I read all the advertisements before I came here, and I was thinking they couldn’t possibly live up to all the hyperbole, and they did. They exceeded every possible expectation. It was beautiful.”
She continued, “I think I’m just a little bit overwhelmed because it’s just so beautiful. I need to go home and think about what I just saw.”
Mr. Hamm described the performance as absolutely wonderful and mystical.
He said that the performers “were letting something work through them. They weren’t there for self-aggrandizement. They were there to communicate something that was greater than they are.
“I’m sure that they are communicating more than I’m able to understand,” Mr. Hamm added. “But it was clear to me they were there not as individual performers; they were there to convey a message and to serve a greater good.”
Shen Yun is a New York-based, classical Chinese dance and music company that tours to some 100 cities in over 20 countries across five continents each year, reaching millions as it seeks to revive the rich beauty and values of traditional Chinese culture.
The performance includes approximately 20 vignettes that carry audiences on a journey throughout Chinese civilization, replete with ancient myths, heroic legends, and modern stories of steadfast faith.
Mr. Hamm felt that the choreography as well as the discipline and “oneness” of the dancers was powerful.
“There is a level of discipline that is rather surprising. I mean, to get that many people [to] move that precisely, and the level of physicality is absolutely stunning. And all those are done flawlessly and effortlessly; that was just amazing. But overall, there was a message that was conveyed by the choreography that was beyond what a person could process intellectually,” he said.
He was particularly mesmerized by a piece called “Fairies of the Sea.” Shen Yun’s program book states, “Ancient Chinese legends speak of delicate fairy maidens, only visible to the pure of heart.” In this piece, the fairies’ long, silk fans look like rippling waves set against a massive backdrop of azure ocean.
“[In] ‘Fairy of the Sea,’ there was a quality to that [fan] performance [that] was indescribable. I can’t really tell you how I was affected by that,” he said. “It struck me with the design and choreography of the dance combined with the music [along with] the performers and their costumes. It created a pathway to the unconscious. You were a little bit distracted by it. You were thinking about how difficult it is to perform. But at the same time, all this unity and synchronization is having an effect on you. And it seems to be it’s inviting the unconscious to absorb this and process it later.”
While watching Shen Yun, Mr. Hamm said he felt contentment, peace, and he felt contemplative.
Despite achieving critical acclaim worldwide and selling out theaters across the United States, Shen Yun cannot perform in China because of the ruling regime’s censorship and repression of artistic expression of China’s traditional values.
Mr. Hamm said he appreciates the company’s efforts to represent traditional Chinese culture. “They are actually bringing back to life things that otherwise would have been completely lost,” he said.
Mrs. Hamm enjoyed the ethnic dances and felt sad that such beautiful aspects of Chinese culture were oppressed. “It’s just not right,” she said.
More and more audience members enthusiastically say that they are looking forward to seeing Shen Yun next year and in the years to come. Mr. Hamm is no different.
“I would go to any performance they are putting on. It’s marvelous,” he said.
Reporting by 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.