SYDNEY, Australia—Commander Phillip Anderson OAM RAN (Retd), who formerly conducted the Royal Australian Navy Band, said Shen Yun Performing Arts radiates happiness as it presents “another side of China” that might be unfamiliar to some when he attended a full house matinee performance at Sydney Lyric Theatre on April 29.
Commander Anderson, who has been awarded an Order of Australia medal, one of Australia’s highest honours, and has performed in China with and even conducted the PLA Navy Band, described the New York-based Shen Yun as “food for the soul.” He said it “brings another side of China to Australian audiences.”
Shen Yun was founded in 2006 with a mission to restore China’s 5,000 years of rich traditional culture through dance and music. Considered to be divinely-inspired by Chinese people, the country’s traditional culture was once almost lost under communism.
The company declares it is presenting “China before communism.”
For this reason, Shen Yun can’t perform in China currently. Commander Anderson noted this was “quite sad,” declaring the company’s and artists’ mission to share traditional Chinese culture noble.
Shen Yun tours the world annually with eight companies simultaneously, reaching almost 200 cities in 2023. Its artists, dancers, and musicians hail from across the globe.
“I think they’re very lucky to be able to perform and do something they love and have the passion for it,” said Commander Anderson. “To tell the story about Chinese culture to so many places in the world is such a noble thing to do.”
“I think it’s brilliant that the company is able to do that,” he continued, “and [Shen Yun] built their reputation over years to be so highly respected and to be allowed to present that story of China that we quite often don’t get to hear.”
Shen Yun performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic, and folk dances, as well as story-based dances that depict ancient myths and legends as well as modern-day minidramas.
Commander Anderson was struck by a feeling of happiness that he said radiated from the stage into the audience.
“The story they were telling radiated to the audience, and the audience instantly warmed to what they were doing,” he said, adding that it was an “uplifting feeling” that he felt “nourishing my soul.”
Commander Anderson reasoned that the audience seemed uplifted after the performance because Shen Yun was “really food for the soul.”
“The performers were amazing, the dances were superb, and the energy on stage, you know, it’s communicating, telling stories through dance and music,” he said. “It’s just a great way to break down barriers between peoples.”
The former Navy commander, who conducted the Royal Australian Navy Band for 10 years, and was a member for four decades, said Shen Yun was a “joyful experience” that taught him “a lot about the depth of Chinese culture.”
Commander Anderson was also struck by the Shen Yun Orchestra and, in particular, the Erhu, a two-stringed Chinese instrument capable of conveying a broad range of emotions.
“I felt totally enthralled with her performance and her mastery of the instrument. It just dazzled me,” he said. “It pierced my heart. It was just amazing. I wanted to stand up and shout,” he added.
The blend of Western classical instruments with Chinese instruments “worked superbly,” he said. “The Chinese tones are different to Western, but there’s a lot of similarities too,” he added.
Shen Yun performs with a live orchestra that blends traditional Chinese instruments into a classical Western orchestra.
“You don’t get to see that very often,” said Commander Anderson, who was impressed by the effort and skill of the artists and dancers.
“The dance, the music, the performers, and at the end, we saw how small the cast was,” he said. “But the whole performance was like it was huge! So they were working very hard—the costume changes and the dance from one scene to another, they worked very hard. They were excellent.”
“I think the leaders of the company are doing a fantastic job, and I know how difficult it is,” he went on to say. “It is a lot of work—so well done to them.”
“I would certainly come again,” said Commander Anderson. “It’s the first time I’ve come to this and I was introduced to this by another friend. I would come again for sure.”
Reporting by NTD and Caden Pearson.