NORFOLK, Va.—When members of the audience are asked to characterize what they liked about the Shen Yun performance, the descriptor often used is “amazing.” As in past years, audience reaction to the 2015 season of Shen Yun often leaves viewers speechless. The audience that saw Shen Yun—the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company—at the Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia, on April 11 and 12 were no less “wowed.”
Shen Yun is a New York-based classical Chinese dance and music company with a mission to revive 5,000 years of Chinese culture and heritage that has been eroded and sometimes been systematically destroyed under communist rule. Independent, nonprofit, and based in New York, Shen Yun draws upon world-class dancers and musicians to present the Chinese culture unmarred or influenced by the Chinese Communist Party. This show cannot be seen in China at the present time.
Located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk is a coastal city of about 250,000, and known for its waterfront. It’s the second largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It’s located next to its neighbor and the largest city, Virginia Beach.
Handkerchiefs on Fingertips
As an ex-dancer, Regina Gomez said she was very impressed. “I can’t believe it. I see the movements and their jumps, and I’m like wow, wow!”
Danielle Lowe said something similar when asked if she would recommend Shen Yun to a friend: “It’s an amazing performance, and it’s absolutely amazing, breathtaking.”
Ms. Lowe, who works as a key holder for Outback Steakhouse, referred to the folk dance, Handkerchief Blossoms. Young ladies cheerily spin pink handkerchiefs on their fingertips in the cold of winter, and then they toss the handkerchiefs up, and somehow catch them perfectly each time. For Chinese, pink represents the plum blossoms, a sign that spring is coming.
Male Dancers Strong
Another dance that impressed Ms. Lowe was the ethnic dance, Spirit of the Yi. Here a shepherd’s horn echoes through the rugged mountains of Yunnan Province, in the far, southwest corner of China. The Yi men hear the call and “sweep across the valley like a fleet of clouds as the music swells,” says the program notes.
“To see the guys leap onto the air, it was amazing and so breathtaking,” she said.
Jana Smith, office manager who teaches ballroom dance on the side, agreed about the male dancers. She said, “The thing I liked especially about the male dancers, they were very masculine and powerful. And their movements and their tumbling were just very impressive. Very precise and strong. It was really nice to watch.”
Ms. Smith also appreciated the women dancers. “They all moved in perfect unison, and there was a lot of grace and beauty in it.”
Dee Pigott, a licensed clinical social worker and teacher, said, “I learned things about China I never knew today. Always the dancers … graceful, the colors touched my soul. I think it touched my spirit.”
‘Instruments sounded like human voices’
And later she said, “A lot of the instruments sounded like human voices. In many, many different spots, whether female, or male, joyful, or plaintive—especially the strings.” The erhu, a kind of Chinese two-string violin, is featured in the performance and there are two in the orchestra. It’s often pointed out how the erhu sounds like a human voice, perhaps because it is similar to the human voice timbre and its expressive tone.
“It was amazing too how every culture has its creation stories, its redemption stories [that] it’s saving. I felt connected,” she said.
Mrs. Pigott came with husband Robert Pigott, a retired aircraft technician, who was amazed in a different way.
“I like the way the performance was integrated into the screen. It all worked so well. When they would go down below the stage there, you will see it on the screen right away. … It was done very excellently, I thought. It was the first time I seen anything quite like that,” he said.
“It’s like going to paradise for a few hours,” said artist Nanette Crist, who saw Shen Yun for the fourth time. Compared to previous times she has gone, she said, “It’s even better than before. And that’s hard to do because your performance before was already perfection.”
“If I was going to imagine how it was to be in paradise and be entertained there, that’s what I would expect to see … ,” she said.
The amazement factor for her was connecting the great spiritual leaders of history with a message for our time, that being, “compassion, kindness and tolerance to one another.”
“So, I very much appreciate the form that you put it in because it is truly exquisite,” she said.
Most attendees at Norfolk made special mention of the universal values that Shen Yun evokes.
Ethan Watkins, also like the others, said at the outset that Shen Yun was “absolutely amazing.” He spoke at length about The Power of Compassion, a dance story, which has a bearing on his work with troubled youth.
Set in contemporary China, the story is about people who are peacefully practicing Falun Dafa, a spiritual meditation discipline. The peaceful early days suddenly give way to a violent persecution. Communist police attack meditators. One policeman falls and injures himself. A fleeing young practitioner turns around and helps the officer. From their speaking to each other, the policeman comes to regret his actions and a new understanding emerges.
Mr. Watkins, who works as a counselor for at-risk youth, said it showed to people that there are other ways to solve problems.
“It’s more of a way I think it should be. A way that we were created to, that’s the direction we’re supposed to go in, but I think we kind of lost our path along the way. It’s kind of good to see that there’s still a lot of tradition out there and a lot of people that still believe that there’s still a better way of doing things and a way of resolving problems and going about your day-to-day life.”
Chinese traditional values created and sustained cultural expressions for thousands of years. The values of compassion, truthfulness, and tolerance have been replaced in China by communist ideology. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was particularly damaging to the virtues and tradition. Shen Yun performances is bringing back on stage the lost traditional values to the world.
Ms. Crist, said, “It is really important for the people of our time in America to understand what’s going on in China and how to preserve not only your indigenous culture, but your spiritual traditions of Falun Dafa.”
With reporting by Gary Feuerberg, Jenny Jing, Tiffany Wu, Maggie Xie, Xiaoxu Lin, Naili Luo, Lisa Fan, and Daniel He from NTD Television.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006