PURCHASE, New York — Shen Yun Performing Arts took center stage at SUNY Purchase’s esteemed Performing Arts Center, leaving theatergoers captivated with the performing troupe’s mesmerizing dance routines, gravity-defying acrobatics, vibrant costumes and props, state-of-the-art digital backdrops, and live musical performances.
Founded in 2006 and headquartered in New York, Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. Each year, the company unveils a brand new production to showcase the beauty, tradition, and richness of China’s 5,000-year-old history and heritage prior to the ravages of Communism.
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Christina Rodriguez, who works as a controller in finance, told reporters that this was her first time seeing Shen Yun on April 21.
‘Honored to have witnessed [Shen Yun]’
“I think [the performance] was beautiful, it highlighted the traditional aspects of [Chinese culture], and also what’s happening today; that really got me,” said Rodriguez, sharing how her family has experienced the oppressive nature of a Communist regime.
“My family has been personally affected by Communism, and trying to show something beautiful is difficult to do,” she said, adding, “I am just honored to have witnessed what I have, and I’m glad the stories are being shared.”
When asked about her favorite parts of the show, Rodriguez said, “I loved the celestial beings, the ‘Water Sleeves’ dance, and the [story depicting] what’s happening in modern-day China; it was very important, and it was really interesting to see it shown through traditional dance.”
Shen Yun’s performances aim not only to 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.
‘Doing the Creator’s work’
“I think [Shen Yun’s performers] are doing God’s work; doing the Creator’s work,” said Rodriguez, highlighting how she hopes more people will learn about the persecution and oppression that many people in China face today.
“We are praying for them and with them. And I think the more you share this message, the more we can help by watching and talking to people about it. I think it’s a very important message to share, and I’m so glad you guys are doing it.”
When asked about whether she would recommend Shen Yun to family and friends, she said, “I am so touched and will continue to help support. I’m a big show buff, and I’m so excited to share [the show] with people.”
‘It was fabulous’
Elizabeth Frost and Richard Reuter, who had previously attended one of Shen Yun’s performances, said they loved the show’s “colors, music, and movement.” The pair attended Shen Yun’s show at Purchase College’s Performing Arts Center on April 21.
“I’ve seen it before, two or three years ago before the pandemic,” said Frost, explaining how she travels often, and is very interested in experiencing other cultures and traditions.
“I’m very interested in most cultures of the world,” said Frost, with Reuter adding, “We travel a lot; we have been to Japan, China, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc.”
When asked about his favorite part of the show, Reuter said, “As far as the performances go, I thought it was fabulous: The artistic design, choreography, and athleticism; it was like a ballet, their breath work is amazing, and I loved the live music.”
Shen Yun’s performances seamlessly blend classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk performances, ancient legends, contemporary narratives, and a live orchestra to take the audience on a spellbinding journey through time and space
Making note of Shen Yun’s use of a high-tech integrative, digital backdrop, Frost said, “I loved the technique of having things fly away and come down and appear onstage, it was very unique. It was very clever and the timing is superb.”
This integration serves to bring scenes from different dynasties, celestial realms, and ethnic regions to life; each performance is also guided by two emcees who explain each segment in both English and Chinese — making it more accessible to a wider audience.
Reuter also made special note of his favorite piece: the female dancers’ “Water Sleeves”. “I liked the garb where they have long flowing sleeves and the way they grabbed the sleeves and then released them; it was very interesting and unique,” he said.
When asked about what they thought about Shen Yun’s depiction of modern-day China and the way the current regime has cracked down on religious beliefs and freedom of speech, the pair said, “Many people in this country may not understand the extent of communism, government overreach and what it was before; other countries don’t have oppression to this extent.”
‘[Shen Yun tickets] were always sold out’
Flona Patten, a nurse, shared with reporters that this was her first time experiencing Shen Yun despite seeing the ads and glowing reviews for years. Patten attended the performance on April 21.
“I’ve seen [Shen Yun] advertised for the past three years, but every time I tried to get a ticket, it was sold out, so this time I said to myself: ‘I won’t miss out again’”.
When asked about her favorite part of the show, Patten said, “I loved the Mongolian dance — the one with the chopsticks, and the entire performance really; everything was awesome. The costumes are amazing, where did they get those?” she said, jokingly.
“The music, costumes, and the entire performance was enticing. I don’t know how they put all those colors together, but I loved it, and Chinese culture is awesome.”
‘Traditional and mesmerizing’
Mussarat Hussein, who works in the medical field, shared with reporters how happy he was to experience Shen Yun after seeing the billboards for years.
“I have been watching [Shen Yun’s] billboards, and I’m so glad I finally got to watch it this year,” he said.
When asked about what stood out to him the most, Hussein said, “It’s beautiful and traditional; I love the culture, nature, beauty, and the message behind the environment, and what people are facing.”
Shen Yun currently has eight equally-sized performing arts troupes that tour and perform around the world simultaneously, showcasing a brand new production every year.
“The show is very comprehensive and beautiful. I loved the ‘Water Sleeves,’ it was so beautiful and elegant, and it looked like the dancers were really flying,” Hussein said, adding, “I also loved the color combinations,” and “traditional touch” of the show.
It was “beautiful to see and was so mesmerizing,” he shared.
Shajada Burgess, currently in college for data analytics, shared that she was glad she “finally got to see” Shen Yun this year, experiencing the performance for the first time on April 21.
“I’ve always wanted to see it because the commercials and billboards look so beautiful; I’m very glad I finally got to see it this year,” she said, adding that she loved how the “dancers moved in unison” throughout the evening’s performance.
“My favorite part was how vibrant the show is, the colors, and the visuals; I love what they do,” said Burgess, adding that the cultural component of the show was “spectacular.”
When asked about what she thought of Shen Yun’s depiction of religious oppression and persecution, Burgess said, “When those pieces [about oppression] were shown, I was trying my hardest not to cry. It’s such a hard reality that we cannot ignore, and while it was portrayed in a beautiful way throughout the show, I’m glad the message was being shared that ‘this is part of the past, but also part of the present.’”
“And I’m hoping we’re coming to a generation where we can stop this from happening in the future,” she said.
‘The flow of everything was so beautiful’
Barbara, a retired schoolteacher, attended Shen Yun’s performance in SUNY Purchase on April 21 alongside her friend Anne.
“I loved the show, the flow of everything and how it was so beautiful,” said Barbara, adding, “I loved how [the emcees] came out to explain each segment, the gymnastics, and the dancing was fabulous.”
When asked about her favorite part of the show, she said, “I loved the women’s ‘Water Sleeves’ dance — it was so well coordinated. Some of the stories were also hysterical; I loved the one about the monk, and also how it talked about China today.”
Barbara also shared how she appreciated the spiritual aspect of the performance. “A lot of people don’t know about what’s happening in China; I thought it was very good for the show to shed light on it,” she said, adding, “The spiritual aspect was interesting because it talked about how the Divine came here.”
For more information about Shen Yun Performing Arts, including FAQs, upcoming performances, and ticketing information, please visit the official website here.