WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Jan. 26, Shen Yun Performing Arts kicked off an acclaimed 10-show run at the prestigious Kennedy Center Opera House in the nation’s capital. Theatergoers who attended the show reported being enchanted with the performers’ dazzling dance routines, vibrant costumes, and gravity-defying acrobatics.
One audience member going by the pseudonym Maxwell Shawn, wrote in a review provided to Vision Times that the show left him feeling rejuvenated as he praised Shen Yun’s artists for their incredible skill and artistry.
“Once I sat down and the show began, I was immediately captivated by the breathtaking colors of the first dance,” wrote Shawn, who is currently enrolled in law school.
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 communism through dazzling displays of art, song, and music.
Authentic Chinese art
Despite growing up in China, Shawn said this was his first time experiencing classical Chinese dance and art. “Before Shen Yun, I had no idea what Chinese classical dance was,” he said, adding, “Although I spent my childhood in mainland China from elementary to high school, art classes focused more on street dance and pop culture, so there was limited exposure to classical Chinese art.”
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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.
But Shen Yun’s performances aim not only to entertain, they 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.
One of the show’s highlights includes an interactive, high-tech backdrop that seamlessly blends and brings to life classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dancing, ancient legends, and contemporary narratives to the big stage.
“The most significant highlight, in my view, was the dance against the vivid azure sky CGI background and the combined artistic effects presented as a whole,” said Shawn. “It felt divine and was unlike any other Chinese dance performances I’ve seen before.”
‘A deeper sense of connection with my Creator’
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 orchestra made the entire show reach new heights,” said Shawn. “The harmonious blend of traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu and pipa with Western violin and brass created a fusion of Eastern and Western tunes that brought me the sensation of basking in the sacred; it gave me a deeper sense of connection with my Creator.”
When asked about which dances stood out to him the most, Shawn pointed to the “Sleeves of Grace,” which is set in China’s prosperous Han and Tang dynasties. He also enjoyed “Yellow Blossoms,” a folk dance that calls for folding fans as props to depict blooming flowers.
“The [female dancers] on stage, with their long sleeves and props, performed so gracefully and elegantly — really providing a profound aesthetic experience,” said Shawn, adding, “Just like how Cao Zhi, the famous poet living in the Three Kingdoms period in ancient China described in his poem ‘Nymph of the Luo River,’ Shen Yun’s performance felt ‘as graceful as a startled swan, and as gentle as a gliding dragon.’”
Shen Yun’s performances also feature world-class sopranos and tenors as they depict songs that tug at the audience’s heartstrings. Notably, the singers are trained in a classic Belcanto style of opera and do not use microphones to amplify their voices; relying solely on their vocal prowess to fill the theater with beautiful and powerful melodies.
According to Shawn, Shen Yun’s baritone’s performance, ‘Thousands of Years Led to This Day,’ and the dance piece ‘Dancing for the Divine’ left him particularly moved. “It reminded me of the reason why we human beings exist,” said Shawn, adding, “It’s unfortunate for humans in such a materialistic world to arrogantly consider ourselves as creators and reject the God above us.”
He continued, “As the [baritone’s] lyrics read, ‘Most human lives are divine beings with a mission … awaiting the creator’s salvation.’” He also noted how “Dancing for the Divine,” which features male dancers, showcased “Mongolian youth living in harmony with nature, riding horses on the grasslands and chasing their beliefs and faith.”
The dancers’ “steadfast faith and simple [ways of] life was spectacular to see and reminded me of the show’s spirit and principles of ‘truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance’ that connect all the stories,” he added.
“I loved experiencing Shen Yun not only for its aesthetic values, but also for the moral stories that were highly educational, with the aim to create a more harmonious and compassionate society,” said Shawn.
Shen Yun will perform at DC’s Kennedy Center through Feb. 4 before heading to Baltimore on Feb. 10. For more information, including FAQs and ticketing information, please visit the official website here.