Audience members were lucky to get a ticket to this Friday’s sold-out show at Lincoln Center, one of America’s premiere stages. Shen Yun performed at the Koch Theater, a principal stage at the Lincoln Center complex. The grand artistic venue was conceived in the late 1960s as a government entity to bring culture to all the people of New York and today stands as one of the world’s largest cultural hubs. Cultural leaders, artists, faith leaders, and New York’s professionals were among the captivated audience members.
This year’s Shen Yun, presenting “China before Communism” features not only the top classical Chinese dancers in the world and a full orchestra blending the music of the East and the West, but also a digitally animated backdrop, which creates unexpected but cohesive illusions that incorporate naturally into the flow of the dances.
“It was divine. Divine.”Shen Yun audience member Dalton
According to the Shen Yun website, “The gong resounds, the curtain opens, and a heavenly scene is right before your eyes. Fairies emerge from a sea of billowing clouds. Mongolians ride on horseback across grasslands as vast as the sky. Classic stories of love and loss, of humor and heroic deeds, come to life.”
Several audience members paused from their enjoyment in the bustling first ring reception to speak with Vision Times.
“That was impressive for sure. I loved the clothing…it’s amazing. We loved the clothing. We loved everything,” shared Funda Nergiz, an accountant manager. She spoke about the conversation she was having with her friend about the fabrics and the traditional cultures portrayed.
“We also find some similarities with our culture because we’re Turkish. So our ancestors are coming from Middle Asia near Mongolia. So we found some northern tribes…the clothing actually looks like the Ottoman Empire clothing style.”
This was Ms. Nergiz’ first time seeing Shen Yun. She said, referring to her friends, they “must see this show.”
Anthony Gjolaj reacted warmly to the show during intermission. “I really loved it. You know, I didn’t know what to expect. Really good timing.” He explained, “I have a Chinese girlfriend, so she’s kind of explained some of the things to me that I don’t understand.” He said she was very much enjoying the show.
Mr. Gjolaj summed up the experience thus far as “Overall, a very lovely experience, very lovely.”
Ms. Vivian Bent and her friends were clearly impressed. “It was awesome. It was absolutely awesome. I liked the storylines of most of the pieces, and the precision…oh that’s just *kiss*.”
“Everybody at the same time…and the colors, wow. Also the technology…I don’t know how someone swoops off of the stage and swoops back…It’s awesome.”
Ms. Bent’s friend Paulette added, “It’s excellent and I love the colors. The colors are beautiful!”
Their friend Dalton, who’s daughter is a Broadway musician, shared that the entire evening was “Very well put together. It was very wholesome. Very artistically motivating…The orchestra was so much in tempo with the action of the dancers…It was well choreographed,” and that the whole experience was a great way to relax after work: “It uplifts you.”
Summarizing the gist of the show, Dalton said, “Historically you can see the storyline takes you from China 5,000 years ago, transitioning.” He pondered briefly and explained, “It was divine. Divine.”
The four friends noticed elements of faith in the performance, and discussed how, although it was different for each of them, there was some element of tradition and spirituality that everyone could recognize. Patricia said, “The singer was…it was like gospel he was singing, based on the words we were reading.” The quality of the singer’s voice and the vibrato was “Absolutely beautiful,” said Patricia.
Dalton added, “It was almost prophetic in terms of how it told the story…it started there and we get better and better, and we could get better, still.” He said, “I think that those directors …did really tell an amazing story.”
The faith of Shen Yun performers has been remarked upon by many religious leaders. According to Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen, who saw Shen Yun in Taiwan in 2017, “They hold fast to the truth, but do so in a peaceful way. They hope that even those who have done wrong can ultimately understand and turn away from misdeeds. This is different from a political power struggle; they persevere because of their faith.”
Alexia Benz-Gardner attended the show with her husband of many years. She said of Shen Yun, “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s really beautiful. I lived in Shanghai for about 7 years. I met my husband in Beijing, China, and he’s Swiss, very international, and so I enjoy looking at all the different cultures, the different dances, the different ethnic groups’ dancing too.” Mrs. Benz-Gardner appreciates classical ballet and expressed admiration for the classical Chinese dance style. Based on her experience living in China, she said, it “feels very authentic” and “It’s a great exploration of China.”
Shen Yun’s patented technology created a lasting impression, as well. Mrs. Benz-Gardner shared, “I liked the scenery as well behind the dancers, as well as the way they interact, go into the scene and then come out again.”
According to the Shen Yun website, “Each performance consists of about 20 pieces, quickly moving from one legend, region, or dynasty to the next…Some pieces also touch upon the topic of today’s China, shedding light on the oppression many experience for their spiritual beliefs, such as Falun Dafa. These tales of courage are often what audience members find the most touching and uplifting.”
Regarding two performances in this year’s show that touch upon the persecution of the spiritual practice of Falun Dafa in today’s China under the Chinese Communist Party, audience member Menardo Garcia said, “They were very powerful, I think, obviously they were definitely something you wouldn’t hear about if they were performing somewhere else. It’s nice that they have the freedom to do that here.”
Mr. Garcia attended Shen Yun with a group of friends and family. He said that his daughter had been asking to come to the show and that they had wanted to since 2018. Mr. Garcia said, “It was amazing. The hard work and the colors and everything was just amazing.”
As for his young daughter, who had waited so long to see the show, Mr. Garcia said, “She loved it. [A long show] is one of those things that it’s hard for them to sit through, but then she’s there taking it all in and she’s just loving it.” He called her over to him to give her a hug and take a picture.
To experience the magic of Shen Yun for yourself, tickets can be purchased online at ShenYun.com, or at your major box offices. To continue enjoying Shen Yun, or to learn more about classical Chinese dance and culture, Shen Yun Creations offers entertaining videos and fascinating interviews with their dancers. Piotr Wang, a lead dancer for this current Lincoln Center production shares words of wisdom from his classical Chinese dance teacher:
“Culture is not just learned from the books. It also needs to be experienced. Once you begin to grasp the vast culture that classical Chinese dance embodies, you’ll realize that it has already changed you as a person. It has changed the way you think. It has changed the way you move. Like an eagle spreading its wings, we must soar beyond ourselves to unlock the limits….”
Bringing culture to the people of New York was the cherished mission of the Lincoln Center at its inception. With this remarkable performance by Shen Yun, we saw a beautiful manifestation of this hope for the people of the city.