BYDGOSZCZ, Poland—A packed auditorium and a standing ovation—that’s how Poles welcomed New York’s Shen Yun Performing Arts on Monday evening, Feb. 27, at Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz, a city the company is visiting for the first time.
Bogusław Woźniak, university teacher at the University of Warmia and Mazury, and director of the Academic Center for Culture and Promotion, was a dancer for almost 30 years. Mr. Woźniak praised the dancers’ “artistry, virtuosity, flawless technique and superb training—because to dance like this, you must practice for a very long time. I am aware of how much heart, love, and tremendous number of hours of work had to be put into it to dance like this.”
Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company, featuring one of the oldest and most comprehensive dance systems in the world.
Mr. Woźniak, who came from Olsztyn to see Shen Yun, stressed that what the audience can admire during the performance is “hard work and once again work, because the dance requires enormous dedication and tremendous charisma. I think it was worth to come and to see … dancers who perform so perfectly.”
“If you’ve been doing something since you were a child or almost forever, and now you’ve got the great pleasure and opportunity to watch such great dancers, then it is doubly nice and really very, very pleasant,” he said.
Shen Yun draws from China’s five-millennium-old traditional culture. The classical Chinese dance presented by the artists is an incredibly challenging art form. It has been successfully preserved for thousands of years through ancient theater, folk traditions, and imperial court performances. It is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world, abounding in numerous flips and other acrobatic techniques. Traditional Chinese dance has influenced modern dances and gymnastics, among others, as the emcees explain.
These artists undertook a great mission to restore the magnificent, authentic culture from the time of Chinese dynasties.
According to Bogusław Woźniak, “the message itself is amazing” and “very apt,” especially in a situation where a war is occurring across the border of their nation. And he knows from his own dance experience, that regional or national dances can be an expression of freedom and democracy, “because we were also an enslaved country many times.” He explained that by learning about history we become more aware, and Shen Yun depicts Chinese history and culture.
‘Important to All People’
“The dance and music are beautiful, and it’s definitely worth learning about this culture. It’s something that is both timeless and beautiful,” said Włodzimierz Olejniczak, who works in the electric industry and who came from Gdynia to see the performance with his wife.
He noted traditional Chinese culture “should certainly not be forgotten.”
In ancient China, the divine element was linked to all human activity, from art to ordinary activities. It inspired artists, philosophers, and permeated human daily life on all levels of society. When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, it saw this spiritual and artistic heritage as a threat to its atheistic ideology.
Shen Yun artists are returning to the roots, and from their performances emanates the spirituality of China’s divinely inspired culture.
“It’s certainly important for the Chinese people, and it’s important to all people who are spiritual. So, I am as much as possible [in favor of] culture combining these kinds of aspects,” said Mr. Olejniczak.
He added that he recommends the show “100 percent. It is worth getting acquainted with foreign culture. It is something that is certainly different from our [culture], and [it’s good to] simply appreciate it.”
Banned in China
“It’s a very interesting concept to present a journey through 5,000 years of [Chinese culture] in this way, with a glimpse into what’s going on in [modern] China, and also with such a great way of presenting what could there be, but is not. So, I am very impressed indeed,” said Marek Pyskło, a psychiatrist originally from Toruń, but now living in Bermuda.
Shen Yun was recommended to him by his daughter who lives in China, where the show cannot be seen, because it is banned by the communist regime. He attended the performance together with his wife.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve seen, in terms of dance quality, something like this. It was really interesting, well done, and really left a good impression,” he said.
According to Mr. Marek, Shen Yun’s mission can be of great value to modern man, “like cultivating every culture and every history. Because nowadays we are falling into a madness of a world where everything practically ceases to be different from each other.”
“The reference to the culture and how everything has evolved over these many thousands of years gives a beautiful overview of how we perceive [reality]. And [is showing] what are … the real values,” Mr. Marek said.
He could see both the timeless values, such as those handed down from generation to generation, and those “temporary, invented for the needs of the moment—[created] depending on what period of development a civilization was in, or in relation to the regions where it was happening in the world. So, I am really impressed,” he noted.
As he explained, it is not only in the Chinese tradition that art is linked to spirituality. Any art “has to be spiritual and has to refer to the divine.”
He also pointed to the long-standing coexistence of Buddhism and Confucianism, which undoubtedly influenced Chinese culture and “built a unique thing.”
Mr. Pyskło said Shen Yun artists should continue their chosen path of telling the story of Chinese traditional culture, because it is “absolutely amazing” in their performance.
Reporting by Miranda Tsai and Agnieszka Iwaszkiewicz. Translated by Mikołaj Jaroszewicz.
The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of Shen Yun Performing Arts. We have covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.