Shen Yun, a Chinese cultural experience

With whorls of colorful sleeves, graceful leaps and ceaseless fluidity, dancers at Shen Yun truly make the show divine. Shen Yun is an artistic performance that features classical Chinese styles of dance, music, and singing. The dancers are trained at Fei Tan Academy of the Arts in New York and are some of the top traditional Chinese dancers in the world. They performed in San Francisco in December.

Classical chinese dance is described as “one of humankind’s greatest treasures.” Shen Yun is an independent, nonprofit organization with the goal of preserving this treasure and reviving authentic Chinese culture.

The show opened with a piece called “Descent from Heaven — A Renewal.” Many more dances followed, each telling a story or showcasing a dance from a specific region in China. Performers danced in colorful, elaborate costumes and used props such as fans, scarves, headdresses, and drums. All of the dances were beautifully choreographed, but there were a few highlights.

During “Han Dynasty Sleeves,” dancers wore colorful, long “water sleeves” and performed intricate spiraling movements that were visually breathtaking. In “Mongolian Bowls,” performers danced while balancing bowls on their heads, capturing the unique custom of hospitality traditionally displayed by Mongolian women. In “Yellow Blossoms,” the use of ruffled yellow fans created illusions of blooming yellow bouquets on stage. Lastly, “Handkerchiefs in Flight” featured the traditional art of handkerchief spinning that originated during the Song dynasty in the Shandong province.

The music of Shen Yun also reflected traditional Chinese music. A modern Western orchestra played, with additions of traditional Chinese instruments such as the erhu (two stringed fiddle) and pipa (Chinese lute), creating a unique texture of sound.

The performance had a strong spiritual influence from a practice called “Falun Dafa,” also known as “Falun Gong.” The practice emphasizes truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, yet its practitioners are persecuted in mainland China. Shen Yun conveyed the importance of speaking out against the Chinese communist government so that people may follow Falun Dafa as they please.

The show tours internationally and makes a stop in the Bay Area each year with a whole new set of choreography and music. It is definitely an enriching experience and I would strongly recommend it. Tickets can be found online at www.shenyun.com.

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