WASHINGTON— Writer and educator Patricia Grady attended the performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center Opera House on March 31 and was initially “speechless” and in awe for what she had experienced. She soon found her voice however.
The performance was “gripping and very powerful,” Ms Grady said, adding “it needs to go everywhere so people will hear the rally and cry.”
Formed as a performance in New York in 2006, Shen Yun has as its mission to restore and revive Chinese culture and now is made up of three touring groups complete with full orchestras, a Chinese classical dance troupe and world class singers and musicians.
Ms. Grady is presently consulting on an education program for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She was impressed with the way Shen Yun applied the performing arts, not only to present China’s five thousand year culture but also to offer insight into political realities of China today.
“I liked the way it shows the contrast between the current culture and the creative expression through the ages, that its a conflict. It was done very naturally through the dance—it was beautiful.
Speaking about Shen Yun’s performance as a valuable educational experience for Western and Eastern audiences Ms Grady said: “Education doesn’t just take place in schools, it takes place everywhere we live and breathe and have an eye for. And that way we have a heart to continue to grow and to incorporate new ideas.”
There were many aspects of Shen Yun’s performance that Patricia appreciated.
“The music and the backdrop were phenomenal,” she said continuing,”The agility of the performance, and the grace of all the performers working together was remarkable in terms of not being a distracter in what they were trying to express, almost as one unit experience.”
“The synergy was tremendous,” she added, “I was speechless, without words.”
According to the Shen Yun website, classical Chinese dance as an art form, is built upon a deep foundation of traditional aesthetics. Beautiful dance movements bring out the inner meaning of intrinsic thoughts and feelings.
Ms Grady elaborated further on the expressiveness of the Shen Yun dancers noting one particular dance titled The Choice where a young man and woman must choose between conforming or paying a heavy price for standing up for their belief in Falun Dafa, an exercise and meditation practice which is presently persecuted in China.
For the two lovers in that dance, it was a conflict, she said, represented as “the symbolism of loving your country and loving your personal practice of faith, it’s like being torn between the two.”
“So in that respect, I think the artistic expression of a political reality is very powerful,” she said.
Ms Grady also noticed the contrasting energies of the male and female dancers, which, according to Chinese culture can be understood as the yin (female) and yang ( male) energies. It was particularly strong in the sequences depicting martial arts training, she felt.
“I think it was saying … in the expression of martial arts, that dance doesn’t have to be just so feminine, it’s also masculine,” she said.
Elaborating further Ms Grady noted, as explained by the emcees in Shen Yun, that martial arts movements are actually derived from traditional Chinese classical dance not the other way around as it commonly thought. Ms Grady contemplated the implications of that saying martial arts are “highly esteemed” in the U.S. and around the world” but, while typical martial arts heroes are recognized as being from China, very few understand its origins.
“I think [the fact] that they bring that out in dance is really valuable,” she said.
Commenting on Shen Yun’s mission to revive traditional Chinese culture and the present barriers the company faces in performing on the Chinese mainland, Ms Grady said, “I think it is important to express one’s desire for a holistic society in that land, in terms of embodying all the principles and all the heritage.
“China is very big, very powerful economically and it can’t keep crushing the voice of its people,” she said.
Ms Grady described the Shen Yun performance as “excellent” saying it had been “like a symphony of dance, music … a dissension, a volition for unity.”
Shen Yun’s “message was imprinted on your soul,” she said with a smile.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform at The Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C., through April 1.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org