DETROIT—Motor City is abuzz this weekend as patrons attend Shen Yun Performing Arts, which came to the Detroit Opera House for the first leg of a two-part run.
Shen Yun is a New York-based performing arts company that highlights the best and most poignant moments of China’s 5,000-year history, much of which has been lost under the current communist regime. Through classical dance and live music, Shen Yun has been able to revive stories and themes stemming from China’s deep spiritual-cultural legacy.
J. J. Spaulding is a theater teacher at Renaissance High School in Detroit. He teaches theater for production, acting, and theater history, and is also a playwright. He attended Shen Yun on the afternoon of Oct. 30.
“I love to see the different elements of the Chinese culture brought into our world through the dance and the choreography,” he said. “And I love the way they integrate the technology—integrate the modern theatrical production—into the classical Chinese dance and [the] production itself.”
Spaulding referred to Shen Yun’s use of animated digital backdrops that turn the proscenium into scenes from other eras, or worlds. The dancers interact with it, extending the stage into an infinite and imaginative expanse.
The contrast between Chinese society as we know it today and the society of the past as depicted in Shen Yun stands out to many viewers, as it did for Spaulding.
“At one point during the show, I wondered how the old Chinese empires and dynasties evolved into something like [today’s China under communism],” he said.
Luis Sfeir, with his wife, Maria, and daughter, attended the performance again this year, having seen it for the first time last year.
“I thought that seeing it for the second time, maybe this was not going to be as exciting and exhilarating and funny as last year. But in fact, I enjoyed it, even more, this time than last time. So we look forward to doing it again,” Sfeir said.
Sfeir is a sociology professor.
“I think I was impressed by multiple things,” he said. “The colors, the music, the way that all the scenes were connected in some way, they flowed very well, one from another.
“In each one of them, you elicit different kinds of emotions. So we felt sad, angry, in danger; we were very happy, with romantic notions of love. So I think the variety of emotions, the variety of colors and dances—and I also put a lot of attention to the dresses that people wore—they were just very well done. Very beautiful.”
Mrs. Sfeir indicated that the performance had a deep meaning for her. “This is important to our inner lives, I think we come because we feel very spiritually enriched by the experience: the beauty, the message, the way it’s done,” she said through her husband’s translation.
“But also, the culture of the Chinese is different [from] our culture here in the United States and our cultures being Latinos in the United States,” Mr. Sfeir added. “And so, they were places where we connected a lot.”
Shen Yun will return to Detroit in January 2022.
Reporting by Sherry Dong and NTD Television.