ROSEMONT, Ill.—When Pawel Skrabacz saw Shen Yun, he felt it was not only a beautiful performance, but also a very complex combination of folklore and dance, music, and humor. “It was wonderful,” he said.
Skrabacz is production marketing manager for Pro Media Gear. He and Tania Chwala, a production designer for Caterpillar, attended Shen Yun Performing Arts North American Company’s evening performance at the Rosemont Theatre on Feb. 16.
As Shen Yun’s website explains, through the universal language of music and dance, the artists seek to take audiences on a journey through 5,000 years of China’s divinely inspired culture.
“Each dance showcases such a beautiful story. Some were very funny. Some were so beautiful and emotional. The way the dancers just fill the stage with the colorful costumes is so captivating,” Chwala said.
Skrabacz said was impressed with the chronological development of the dances throughout the performance and how it built up to the present day.
“The final performance was very modern and I really appreciated the continuity of the skills the dancers showed in the ancient dances and something very modern—something that is an everyday street scene performed in such an artistic way,” he said.
Shen Yun performances are comprised of 20 or so vignettes including story-based dances that feature various episodes of Chinese history and mythology. There are also a few pieces that showcase solo bel canto vocalists. Each piece is presented with an introduction by two bilingual emcees speaking English and Mandarin.
“I really enjoyed the English introductions before each dance, it really helped set the stage for what’s about to happen and you could really follow what’s going on. And I think not only I enjoyed the performance, but I learned a lot about Chinese culture,” Chwala said.
The two appreciated both the breadth and depth of the performance.
“This performance really showcased the diversity of it [China], geographical, cultural—I loved the different colors of the costumes. I loved the music and certain individuals during the show were really able to shine and I wish they go on performing and sharing this experience with other people,” Skrabacz added.
Chwala has several years of experience with Polish folk dancing, and so this gave her some unique insights as she watched the performance.
“The way they extend their arms and beautiful lines, even rows—that was just on a whole new level,” she said. She pointed out one dance as an example, where the dancers seemed to effortlessly retain their grace even while balancing porcelain vases on their heads.
“That dance where they were dancing with the vases on their heads, you need extreme posture and coordination for that. I don’t know if it can get any better than that—truly remarkable,” she said.
Chwala also found it interesting that Shen Yun cannot perform in China, where the culture originated.
As Shen Yun’s website explains, the traditional arts and culture it showcases are precisely what the ruling communist regime has been trying to stamp out in the last several decades.
Skrabacz felt Shen Yun’s mission was important.
“China has a history in the last few decades of oppressing history,” Skrabacz pointed out. “China’s a country with one of the most diverse—one of the longest recorded histories. I think it’s very important to showcase that in a true fashion.”
Chwala was touched by the story-based dances that addressed this directly: The spiritual practice Falun Dafa has been banned in China and its practitioners are facing a persecution that has gone on for two decades.
The practice is centered around the three principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance—in line with the ancient, divinely-inspired culture the communist party sought to root out. Many of Shen Yun’s artists practice Falun Dafa, and Chwala appreciated how the performance brought the issue to light.
“I think that outside of China, being able to show such beautiful dances and teaching the way of [Falun] Dafa, I think that’s really important to spread the message beyond the borders of China and inform people what the reality is,” she said. “I think doing that through dance is very cool because not only is it entertaining but it really resonated with the audience.”
With reporting by NTD Television and Andrew Darin.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.