DAYTON, Ohio—Shen Yun Performing Arts graced the stage at the Benjamin and Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center on May 1, pleasing the audience and providing more than surface level beauty.
“Very athletic, colorful, artistic,” said Larry Jageman, Emeritus Professor of special education at The Patton College, and active in community work, who was at the performance with his wife, Tracy Jageman, a retired teacher and coordinator for schools for gifted children.
New York-based Shen Yun traverses the globe with one mission: “reviving 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture,” according to its website. The performance features an interweaving of artistic elements; classical Chinese dance, an ancient dance system imbued “profound wisdom from every era and dynasty,” is at the core of the performance. The dancers, adorned in colorful, handmade regalia, are accompanied by award-winning vocalists, an orchestra the melds both classical Western and Chinese instruments, and digital backdrops.
“I liked the backdrops screens because that gave it depth, and I was just fascinated with the movement of the images in the background,” said Mr. Jageman, who has also authored several books. “And then they would come to life, come up the set, such perfect timing, I loved it.”
An aspect of Shen Yun’s towering and vivid backdrops is an interaction between the screen and the dancers on stage. Mr. Jageman was describing when animated figures move on the screen and go off the side or the bottom; with seamless transition, dancers dressed the same appear on stage, astonishing the audience. Gasps of surprise are often heard when the effect is first seen.
Shen Yun cannot at this time travel to China due to communist oppression there attempting to extinguish the very culture, and rich values, that Shen Yun seeks to revive.
“After more than 60 years of Communist rule in China, and especially after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traditional culture has been all but completely demolished,” states Shen Yun’s website. “However, the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture, with its values of benevolence, honor, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity, as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens, cannot be destroyed.”
Mr. Jageman “was delighted with the spiritual aspect.”
“That is what life is about—connecting us, ourselves, with creation, but also with eternity,” he said. “That can only happen through divine spirit, and this was about the divine spirit … it was a very strong thread through the whole show.”
In the last dance, the manifestation of the ancient belief that good will be rewarded and wrongdoing is punished is seen, according to Shen Yun’s program. Mr. Jageman saw profound principles in both that dance and the entire performance.
“We are unable to save ourselves because we are trapped within our own frailty and
our own fears and our own inabilities, and the creator had the power and ability to create mankind,” he said. “So we have to submit ourselves to that power, and only when we do that are [we] able to overcome our own frailties and our own fears,” Mr. Jageman said.
Reporting by Yang Chen and Zachary Stieber
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org