LOS ANGELES—Art is an intersection of many ideas, and Shen Yun Performing Arts presents that through many mediums. For Loreen Arbus and Gail Bershon, an artist and a benefactor of the arts, finally making it to a Shen Yun performance was almost an act of serendipity. It was also what they called perfection.
Throughout her career, Ms. Arbus has immersed herself in the world of the arts and entertainment, as a television writer, producer, author, and professional Argentine Tango dancer and choreographer. Foregoing her father Leonard H. Goldenson’s last name, she became a trailblazer in television who made it as the United States’ first woman head of programming at a national network and wanted to do it without relying on being the daughter of the founder of ABC. This was just the beginning of a long resume of innovations.
Ms. Arbus, who splits her time between Los Angeles, New York, Argentina, and Spain, heard about New York-based Shen Yun several years ago, but it wasn’t until last year that she found herself captivated by the colors and designs of the performance in an ad. She bought the tickets, and there was no one she wanted more to see Shen Yun Performing Arts with than Ms. Gail Bershon—an avid theatergoer and Broadway stalwart who is open to trying everything.
Ms. Bershon, similarly, is immersed in the art and philanthropic worlds, directing foundations and raising money for charities. For a time she managed three galleries on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, with President Ronald Reagan among her clients.
For the two discerning women, there was no fault to find in Shen Yun’s presentation of 5,000 years of civilization.
“The whole show was impeccable. I mean, it was really impeccable. From the costumes, to the talents of the dancers to the hand movements to the singers, it was just impeccable, to the orchestra, it was fabulous. Really,” Ms. Arbus said.
Impeccable in Detail
As Ms. Arbus agreed to share her thoughts on the performance, she gave the disclaimer that she tends to view entertainment through a critical eye.
“I have a standard maybe that is tougher than many people because I’m not just sitting back and relaxing,” she said, yet she was relaxed watching Shen Yun.
What she observed was that motives of characters were similar in stories, the themes were consistent. The colors and costumes that caught her attention initially were even more innovative than she thought.
“I mean as an example, the color combination never repeated,” Ms. Arbus said, listing the touches of pink versus peach, the kinds of blues used, the tiny but powerful touches of red used sparingly in the performance.
“The colors were just glorious,” she said. “Every single costume was different from piece to piece. … And the colors always evolved, they were overall thematic, strength, and centered.”
The choreography, too, astounded her in its perfection. No one dancer would raise their arm slightly too high or low, the legs were in absolute precision, and there were even very difficult fight—and flight—scenes choreographed into the stories that she found to be terrific, touching, and flawless.
There are, in fact, about 400 costume pieces designed for every season tour, according to Shen Yun’s website. Water sleeves, Tang Dynasty dress said to be inspired by the heavens, celestial robes of Buddhas, Taos, and fairies, ethnic and folk costumes inspired by the many regions of China—these are recreated every year for Shen Yun’s all-new programs. A performance consists of generally about 20 pieces, through classical Chinese dance and an orchestra blending in Chinese and Western instruments, with the goal of sharing China’s authentic traditional culture, according to the program notes.
“It was moving, it was satisfying, it was novel, it was unpredictable. It was [a] completely satisfying artistic experience from every standpoint. Bravo to Shen Yun. Bravo to everyone involved,” Ms. Arbus said. “I’m going to look to see what else I can learn. And I’m definitely going to come back.”
Being in the art world, Ms. Bershon said she had heard many artists promote them, had known about Shen Yun for five years, and thus she was brimming with happiness after the performance.
The staging of the performance was a technical marvel for Ms. Arbus, and it was a wonder to watch for Ms. Bershon.
“It was just done beautifully and it’s different. I mean, what you’re doing has never been done,” Ms. Bershon said. “I can imagine the years of training that went into this and the synchronization of everything—it was incredible. Really. I loved it. Bravo.”
“From the costumes to the talents of the dancers to the hand movements to the singers, it was just impeccable, to the orchestra, it was fabulous. Really.”
“It was very entertaining, it was very visual, it was spiritual, it was moving. And it was a special experience that I haven’t experienced before from a theatrical production because it was so special,” Ms. Bershon said.
The Significance of Shen Yun
This spirituality she saw in Shen Yun was something Ms. Bershon said we probably all know in our hearts, but needed a reminder of.
During the performance, the emcees explained the company’s name. “Shen” means “divine” in Chinese, and “yun” is something like the feeling behind a movement. Together you get something like the feeling, or beauty, of divine beings dancing.
After all, classical Chinese dance is a dance form of thousands of years, borne out of a culture that was said to be inspired by the heavens.
Ms. Arbus said she “learned a lot about the interplay between earth and heaven and thousands of years of history and the current interpretation as well.”
It was something that felt distinctly like an Asian philosophy, yet universal and something everyone could relate to, she said. She felt one could relate to it on both a human and spiritual level.
For instance, Shen Yun cannot perform in China. Since communists took power in 1949, traditional beliefs and values have been systemically uprooted, and faiths are persecuted.
From her own background, Ms. Arbus related with experiences in Argentina where thousands were kidnapped off the street and made to disappear, and the strife of the Jewish people in World War II.
“The program so eloquently gives you an emotional heart wrenching understanding of domination and the need, the human need and spirit to survive and to be, to be able to empower ourselves … and a sense of community. It was just really great,” she said.
She could relate, too, to what is happening in China today from her friends’ experiences.
“I know several artists who can not go to China, and have been persecuted and had to leave,” she said. “I think as the show was really brave to present this continual contradiction between, and challenge of being able to be truly Chinese, but not be in China. Many people do not know what the persecution is. And do not know how difficult it is to be artists in China, would now come away with a better understanding, I think, as a result of this show.”
The performance gave people a better understanding of self and spirit as well, she thought.
“To have such an appreciation of nature and our inner selves, and our inner soul and the fact that we are on earth, in a journey and the journey was just beautifully interpreted,” Ms. Arbus said.
“Couldn’t have been better,” Ms. Arbus said.
Reporting by NTD Television, Jana Li, and Catherine Yang
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.