DENVER, Colorado — On March 8, Shen Yun Performing Arts concluded its first performance to a sold-out house in the Mile High City. Performing in Denver’s prestigious Buell Theater, audience members said they felt “rejuvenated and transported to ancient China,” as they embarked on a journey across celestial realms, dazzling dance routines, gravity-defying choreography, and an enchanting display of art and music.
Founded in 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Based in New York, the company aims to revive 5,000 years of traditional culture and values through immersive performances — all while showcasing what China was like prior to the ravages of communist rule.
Made up of a large ensemble of elite artists comprising more than 500 dancers, musicians, and vocalists, Shen Yun has eight equally-sized companies that tour and perform across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania simultaneously; debuting a brand new production each year.
‘A common thread for humanity’
Jessica Kinninger, who attended the performance alongside her husband Colton, shared with reporters that “the performers’ artistry, agility, and devotion to their craft was incredible.”
“I thought the show was very spiritual and I appreciated that; there’s a common thread for humanity that runs throughout that really resonated with me,” she said, adding that the “quality of the dancing was spectacular,” and the show reminded her of our common humanity. “I’ve seen people train for the Russian ballet that weren’t as good as [Shen Yun’s dancers],” Kinninger, who was trained in classical ballet as a child, said enthusiastically.
Kinninger, who now works as a small business consultant based in Colorado, also shared that she appreciated being able to learn about other cultures and beliefs through the show. “A lot of things nowadays don’t have a spiritual component to it, and I thought the name ‘Shen Yun,’ which represents the beauty of divine beings dancing, was so accurate.”
Breaking the ‘shackles of Communism’
Brad Bright, President and CEO of a media foundation, shared with reporters that the “show was fun, delightful, and very informative too.”
“Just getting to appreciate different cultures, and how it’s expressed through dance, is amazing,” Bright said, adding, “The last piece [“Snowy Mountain Celebration”] was incredible in terms of the male dancers’ artistry and choreography; it was very well done.”
Bright also shared how the show resonated deeply with him on a spiritual level. “I was a History and Poli-Sci major in college, so I’ve been to China and spent many years there,” Bright said, adding, “Witnessing the rich history and culture of the Chinese people, and seeing it portrayed through dance and song is very moving.”
“What breaks my heart is that so much of it has been wiped out by the current communist regime, and I look forward to the day that Chinese people can throw out the shackles of communism, and really begin to blossom.”
Pointing out how unfair people in China are being treated just for upholding their faith, Bright said, “There’s an undercurrent sadness because we only get to see little pieces of this rich culture that spans 5,000 years through dance and music, yet in China that same history and culture is being suppressed.”
“There’s no freedom of religion in China, and that needs to change; it breaks my heart that Chinese people have to experience this today,” he said.
Rendy Cuerdene, who works as a contractor specializing in residential work, told reporters that “Shen Yun performers were absolutely phenomenal; their skill levels, and artistry was very inspiring.”
When asked about what stood out the most to him in the show, Cuerdene said he really enjoyed seeing the erhu in action (a two-string instrument from ancient China that can represent a wide range of emotions and musical tones).
“I particularly enjoyed the musician who played the two-string instrument; how she could get so many different sounds out of it was incredible, and very inspiring,” he said.
Shen Yun’s award-winning dancers and acrobats — who hail from all over the world — perform graceful and athletic movements, bringing to life stories of ancient dynasties, traditional ethnic dances, legendary figures, and modern-day China. They are accompanied by a live orchestra that blends classical Western and Chinese instruments to create a unique and harmonious soundscape.
Cuerdene, who attended the performance alongside his family, made special note that his daughter Anastasia’s 99-year-old grandmother is the one who bought tickets and treated them all to see Shen Yun.
“It was truly the experience of a lifetime,” he said.
‘Empathy and vigilance’
Dennis Huspeni, who works as a journalist and city editor for the Denver Gazette, shared that the show was enlightening because it shed light on “many issues that are happening in China today.”
“We thought the music, choreography, and dancing was beautiful, of course, but [the show] also had a strong message to send,” he said, adding, “Freedom is oppressed in China, and as journalists that’s an issue that is very near and dear to our hearts.”
Huspeni also made note of the art, culture, and history that is woven into the show, and said he “appreciated all the nuances of the dances, music, and colors.”
One of Shen Yun’s highlights is how the original dance pieces showcase the bravery and resilience of oppressed individuals as they fight to maintain their beliefs in the face of immense adversity. These performances not only entertain, but also educate audiences on important social and political issues, while providing a unique perspective on the human spirit and the importance of not taking certain freedoms for granted.
The show really taught me about “empathy and vigilance,” he said, explaining how the performance served as a “reminder to cherish the freedom of expression that we enjoy here in America.”
‘A wonderful dynamic’
Mark Sexton, who attended the performance with his friend Jonette, said he loved “the creative interaction with the dancers and the backdrops in telling stories,” adding that Shen Yun’s use of an immersive, high-tech backdrop served to add a “wonderful dimension to the whole experience, and I loved how it’s able to interact so seamlessly with the rhythmic balances of the dancers.”
Sexton, who works as an energy executive in Denver, said it was wonderful to see Shen Yun being able to preserve the rich “cultural remnants of ancient China” because “so much has been lost to oppression when the Communists came in; they didn’t promote this sense of history and divinity.”
“I loved the way the show flowed and it feels transformative sitting here; I feel like I’m not here in Denver, but was instead transported to ancient China,” he said.
Sexton’s theater-companion, Jonette Crowley — a spiritual teacher and author of several books — shared with reporters that she thought “the way the dancers move with each other is so graceful, and there’s a natural spiritualism in their movements.”
“I was very moved by the beginning [of the performance] where it showed that humanity came from Divinity, and how we’ve become so lost in today’s world,” Crowley, who wrote The Eagle and the Condor, said.
“It also made me sad that the current Chinese government does not facilitate the differences and spiritual growth of its people that have made its culture so rich and beautiful,” Crowley said, adding, “It made me sad [to see] what’s been lost — not just in China — but across the world, too.”
‘Humanity came from Divinity’
In addition to its stunning visual elements and use of high-tech special effects that bring the audience on an immersive journey through time and space, Shen Yun’s performances are also deeply spiritual and seek to convey a message of hope, inspiration, and dignity.
The dances and musical pieces aim to inspire a sense of wonder and appreciation for the richness of traditional Chinese culture, and to promote universal values such as compassion, respect for life, and the pursuit of truth.
“The show reminded me that we’re all the same; we’re all beings from heaven, and we lost so much of that by multiplying our differences rather than our connection to each other,” said Crowley.
Shen Yun will perform four more shows in Denver before heading to Colorado Springs on March 17.
For more information on Shen Yun Performing Arts, including FAQs and ticketing information, please visit the official website here.