NEWARK, N.J.—Dance and music are often seen as universal languages because of their ability to transcend cultural boundaries. Gregory Thomas, a chiropractor, said that the dance and music performed by Shen Yun Performing Arts helped him better understand and appreciate Chinese culture.
“I think that the arts and dance and music transcend cultures,” said Mr. Thomas, who watched Shen Yun at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center on May 6. “To see that arts is a way to very much appreciate whatever culture it comes from—in this case Chinese—[was] beautiful.”
Based in New York, Shen Yun was founded in 2006 and is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Now with eight equally sized companies touring the world simultaneously, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture and to give its audiences a glimpse of pre-communist China.
Mr. Thomas said that he was touched by Shen Yun’s live orchestra, which combines traditional Chinese and Western instruments. He said that he was particularly struck by the erhu, a traditional Chinese two-stringed instrument.
“Every culture has its own ethnic music, and [it was] very impressive to [hear] Chinese music,” said Mr. Thomas, who added that the erhu solo, accompanied by a pianist, had the ability to transcend all cultures.
Shen Yun’s program also includes story-based dances set in modern-day China that depict the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of followers of faith. Mr. Thomas said that the message he saw behind Shen Yun’s performance was that “the history of China is … not communism,” and that Shen Yun aims “to expose communism and to inform [that] tradition is the better way in a society.”
Shen Yun ‘A Celebration of Life’
Also in the audience were Joe Hughes, an attorney with his own company, and his wife Pam Hughes, a CFO at her husband’s company.
“I thought that the dancing was flawless,” said Mr. Hughes. “The singing was amazing, and the overall production was incredible.”
Mrs. Hughes said that she loved Shen Yun’s patented animated backdrop which allows performers to move between the stage and the background.
“It was just really creative and amazing,” said Mrs. Hughes “I’ve never seen any show like this.”
Mr. Hughes said that he believes it is very significant for Shen Yun to raise awareness around the world about Chinese culture.
“It’s very significant. It’s beautiful to bring the Chinese culture here so that we can enjoy it and all celebrate it. I think that’s super important.”
When asked what message he got from Shen Yun’s performance, Mr. Hughes said, “It’s a very existential message, it’s a beautiful message: you have to have respect for all living things. We should be good to each other.”
“I think it was a celebration of life,” Mr. Hughes added. “You can see the way all the singers and the dancers work together so well; when you work together, you can make something collectively that’s bigger than the individual parts.”
Reporting by Sharon Lin, Frank Liang, and Wandi Zhu