SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On Jan. 22, Shen Yun Performing Arts wrapped up six fully sold-out performances at the prestigious Centro de Bellas Artes after debuting in Puerto Rico for the first time. Audience members told reporters that they were enchanted with the performers’ dazzling dance routines, vibrant costumes, and gravity-defying acrobatics.
Founded in 2006 and based in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. 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 through breathtaking displays of art and music.
Made up of a large ensemble of elite artists comprising more than 500 dancers, musicians, and vocalists, Shen Yun currently has eight equally-sized companies that tour and perform across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania simultaneously. The company puts on a brand new production each year.
‘Everything was beautiful’
Marcelino Alcala, a former dancer and choreographer, attended Shen Yun’s first performance in San Juan on Jan. 19 alongside his friend Gladys Nuñez, a former Bel canto singer. He told reporters that the show was “extraordinary and superb,” and that he was deeply moved and impressed by the dancers’ technique and agility.
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“It was just superb,” said Alcala, adding, “All the training, the lines of the dancers’ movements, all the coordination; everything was super beautiful!”
When asked about what he enjoyed the most about the show from a choreographer’s perspective, Alcala said, “Well, the music alone transmits peace. The images, movements, costumes, colors of the backdrop — it was all very inspiring and gorgeous to see.”
Shen Yun’s performances, which are complemented by a live orchestra that combine classical Chinese and Western instruments, take audiences on a spellbinding journey through time and space. The show also utilizes an interactive backdrop to seamlessly blend and bring to life classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dancing, ancient legends, and contemporary narratives to the big stage.
‘A spiritual breakthrough’
Jorge Fernandez, an attorney, attended Shen Yun’s performance on Jan. 20 with his family after receiving tickets as a Christmas present from his wife. Speaking with reporters, Fernandez said the performance was “deeply moving” and that he enjoyed being able to share an experience akin to a “spiritual breakthrough” with those closest to him.
“The interaction with a new culture; the fantastic effects from the backdrop [combining] reality and fantasy; the dancing and costumes — it was all extraordinary,” said Fernandez, adding, “I think through the arts, people can learn a lot about different countries and cultures.”
When asked about how Shen Yun’s performance moved him on a deeper level, Fernandez said, “I believe that all these artistic initiatives are very important to let people know that China is not just a closed country, but that it’s also very wealthy in culture, tradition, and, most importantly, wealthy in spiritual perception.”
Shen Yun’s performances aim not only to entertain, but also educate audiences on important social and political issues taking place in China today — providing a unique perspective on the human spirit and the importance of not taking certain freedoms for granted.
Fernandez also said he would recommend for everyone to come and enjoy Shen Yun in order to gain a deeper appreciation for traditional arts and culture. “I would say to everyone that this is an event you should not miss, and you should take advantage anytime [Shen Yun comes] to your venue, or to your closest area; stop by and try to get some tickets.”
‘Majestic colors and talented dancers’
Victor Rivera, who attended the performance on Jan. 19 with his wife and children, told reporters that the show was “deeply inspiring,” and reminded him about important values such as discipline, tradition, and respect for life.
Rivera, a former Olympian and martial arts teacher, praised the dancers’ incredible technique and said the show was incredible to see. “I loved seeing such talented artists and the majestic colors, but I especially loved the integration of the screen with the dancers. It was the first time I’ve seen something like that, “said Rivera.
Rivera said he was also pleased to be able to share this experience with his daughter and said he hopes to attend more Shen Yun shows in the future. “This way, I can contribute to her continued growth through art and culture and I’m very grateful she had this opportunity to experience this marvelous performance.”
He also shared that he was deeply moved by one of the performance’s storylines, which touches upon the persecution of Falun Gong adherents in China. “The story of the communist officers where they unfortunately kill the girl and she goes to heaven is an important message about other types of government,” said Rivera, adding, “I was deeply moved and inspired by this dance.”
Falun Dafa, (法輪大法) also known as Falun Gong, is a Chinese spiritual practice that combines meditation exercises with a moral philosophy based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真善忍). The practice gained enormous popularity in both China and beyond — attracting tens of millions of adherents since being introduced to the public in 1992.
But in July 1999, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a massive campaign to eradicate the practice — incarcerating millions of people over the following decades. Thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have since died from torture and abuse, with the number still on the rise. Many Falun Gong followers have also been subject to relentless harassment, arrests and arbitrary imprisonment.