BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom—The journey towards truth and wisdom is in the heart of many teachers. And it was this aspect of Shen Yun Performing Arts that resonated with retired language teacher Arthur Farndell.
“I think we’re all in this life searching for the truth, searching for wisdom, beauty, knowledge and love, and [Shen Yun] exemplified this to the maximum degree,” he said after the sold-out matinee performance at the Birmingham ICC on March 6.
“Remember the story of the Monkey King? He wanted to find immortality. He wanted to find a teacher who could teach him how to live forever, so he travelled around the world looking for this teacher of spirituality and in the end he found what he wanted,” said Mr. Farndell. The Monkey King makes his appearance in the dance “Monkey King and the Dragon Palace” in this year’s Shen Yun performance.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts aims to revive the authentic divinely inspired culture of China that has endured for 5,000 years before being almost wiped out under recent decades of communist rule.
The rich Chinese culture has been deeply influenced by the religions of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism, as the Shen Yun website explains: “Under the influence of these faiths, Chinese culture has generated a rich and profound system of values.”
Mr. Farndell recognised this in Shen Yun’s performance. “Chinese culture is one of great knowledge, talent, ability, and wisdom, how to live on this earth, but how to live for heaven as well,” he said.
“This life that we live on earth is just like a journey, but it’s only a journey, it’s not our real home, our real home is in heaven and that’s where we are all going, that’s our destination, and [Shen Yun] exemplifies that.”
Shen Yun communicates this deep culture through the highly expressive art form of classical Chinese dance, folk and ethnic dance, an orchestra that blends Eastern and Western instruments, bel canto tenor and soprano singing, and solo instrumental performances. A state-of-the-art digital backdrop brings a unique modern aspect to the show.
Each year, a whole new performance is choreographed and costumed, drawing on inspiration from China’s rich history and legends, historical tales, and modern-day scenarios that represent traditional Chinese principles such as loyalty, compassion, kindness and bravery.
“The music and dancing were so well coordinated, the choreography was brilliant. Every performer seemed to be precise in all the movements, so elegant and so timed together. They all worked together brilliantly. Nobody was claiming personality, nobody was saying I’m really good, they were all allowing the natural culture of China to show through,” said Mr. Farndell.
As well as technical skill and form, Classical Chinese dancers must also master “bearing”, which is described by Shen Yun as “inner spirit”.
Mr. Farndell felt the dancers truly embodied traditional Chinese culture through their movements and expression.
“In every movement from every performer, this was coming through to me – particularly beauty was being transmitted to me,” he said.
“Many performers these days they put their own personality first and everything else second. [Shen Yun’s] performers put the civilisation of China, which is one of wisdom and spirituality, before their own personalities. For me that’s very important.”
Reporting by NTD and Kat Piper
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.