BERKELEY, Calif.—Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company, began its 2020 world tour on Dec. 20, 2019.
Shen Yun now has seven touring companies that travel the world simultaneously. One of the first performances of the season was held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, California.
Audience members praised the New York-based dance company’s portrayal of traditional Chinese culture.
Writer Admires Storytelling
“I thought the whole thing was fantastic,” said Mike Grumley, a thriller writer, after attending Shen Yun.
Many Shen Yun dance pieces tell legends from ancient China. After the emcees introduce each story, Shen Yun’s world-class dancers and live orchestra bring it to life on stage.
“That’s kind of what the writer always wants to do, is to tell as much of a story with the least amount of words possible, and I think that was probably a really good example here,” said Grumley.
He appreciated the traditional Chinese culture expressed in the performance, and he believes it’s important to understand other cultures.
“As a writer, I’m a firm believer that all of our cultures and our countries are a lot more similar than we’re willing to admit. Everybody wants to fall in love, and everybody wants to have children and see them get older, and everybody wants to help each other,” he said. “Fundamentally, at a human level, we’re all very, very similar. It’s things like this that kind of drive that home.”
The backdrop in Shen Yun is a unique digital projection that provides changing scenery for the stories and other dance pieces.
“I thought it was really wonderful, I thought the dancing was incredible … the color and the imagery that they had, and the special effects,” Grumley said. “The timing and the synchronization of [the backdrop] was incredible. I don’t know how they did that over and over and made it look so real.”
He also enjoyed the music from the orchestra, which includes both Chinese and Western musical instruments.
“The orchestra was fantastic; really, really nice; especially the two-stringed instrument [erhu]. They talked about how you can get so much emotion out of two strings. That was amazing. … It makes you kind of appreciate the Chinese culture and the breadth of what some of the musical instruments can do,” Grumley said.
“I thought it was wonderful. I think we’ll probably be back next year,” he said.
Shen Yun: Unique and Inspiring
Ken Churich, senior vice president of a commercial real estate company, enjoyed the performance with his wife.
“The precision is outstanding,” he said. “The choreography and the … tumbling, the dance moves, I’ve never seen anything like it with so many people and so consistent. The finer details are really, really extraordinary, and the music is nice. Everything, and the timing of it, is really something we’ve never seen before. It’s outstanding.”
He described Shen Yun as unique and inspiring and was impressed with the dancers.
“They’re true athletes,” he said. “You can tell that they’ve been training for years, and what’s extraordinary is the timing, that you have that many people doing something at once, and the choreography is really outstanding. … This is very different than anything I’ve ever seen.”
Churich and his wife sat close to the stage, allowing them to be near the orchestra. They both enjoyed the music of Shen Yun.
When talking about the Chinese culture he saw in the performance, Churich said, “It’s interesting. It’s different than anything that we’ve ever been exposed to.”
Ancient Chinese culture placed great emphasis on the divine. Shen Yun aims to keep this tradition alive today, portraying values such as faith, benevolence, and respect for the divine.
“They’re very disciplined. … It gives you a greater appreciation,” he said. “You can tell that the traditions go generations deep. It is very spiritual, but also the traditions that [they’re] trying to permeate throughout the generations is very impressive.”
‘I love the spirit’
John Range, owner of a small IT corporation, was also in attendance.
“I love it, and I love the spirit behind it,” he said. “I like that the inner life is emphasized, as well as the outer form. … It comes from the heart.”
According to the program Shen Yun artists, following in the ancient Chinese tradition, believe that in order to present something truly good and beautiful on stage they have to cultivate their inner worlds in such a way.
“I’m grateful that they’re in my world,” Range said. “I’m grateful that they are struggling in such a good way to bring peace and understanding to the world, which it desperately needs at so many levels and is so hungry for, but doesn’t know where to find it.”
With reporting by Steve Ispas, Gary Wang, Qian Zhang, and Sally Appert.