Digital Projection Brings Ancient Scenes of China to Life

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A Window into the Genius of Shen Yun

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff

With state-of-the-art graphics technology, Shen Yun’s digital backdrops create a dramatic setting for each dance number.

NEW YORK — Imagine mingling with the river folk of yore along the Yangtze River in China. The soft, pink, blossoming foliage reflects off the river; mountains appear in a purple haze on the horizon.

Now imagine standing atop a precipice, gazing along the Great Wall of China, which extends into the distant sky. Smoke signals billow from its towers as they did once upon a time.

In Shen Yun Performing Arts’ theatrical display of classical Chinese culture, digital backdrops bring scenes from 5,000 years of history to the modern stage. State-of-the-art technology is used to depict the natural world as well as ancient Chinese art, including classical Chinese gardens and the heavenly scenes often portrayed in Buddhist paintings.

The New York-based company specializes in classical Chinese dance, but it also revives the diverse traditional dances, dress, and music of the 55 ethnic groups in China.

While presenting the old, Shen Yun creates something new.

The Academy and Emmy Award-winning production designer of Avatar, Robert Stromberg, said that the backdrop could be “a new art form in itself — live performance mixed with digital projection.”

After watching Shen Yun perform in Los Angeles in 2010, Stromberg told New Tang Dynasty Television that Shen Yun’s backdrop created the feeling of “going to the theater and the movies at the same time.”

“The show was absolutely beautiful,” said Stromberg. “It was so inspiring, I think I may have found some new ideas for the next Avatar movie.”

Stromberg has also studied Chinese landscapes and appreciated the authenticity of the backdrop. “Seeing a traditional performance with the authentic dance moves and authentic backgrounds — it all came together.

From Himalayan Peaks to Subtropical Forests

Every year, Shen Yun’s performance changes. With about 20 dances in each performance, the dancers run through the broad history, and geographical and ethnic expanse of China.

Dancers depict Tibetans in the Himalayan Mountains, and Yi ethnic dancers take three steps forward and one step back in a circular motion that characterizes “Beating Buckwheat Step,” a movement inspired by harvest time. The dance takes place against the backdrop of blooming fields, mountains, and valleys in Southwest China.

Shen Yun moves through mountains, crags, valleys, fertile basin lands, down to the subtropical evergreen forests of Southeast Asia.

Ethnic groups are portrayed in their native environment, but the digital backdrop does more than just set the scene. It also provides an interactive prop display, traditionally executed with pulleys, strings, and sandbags.

Shen Yun “creates a unique atmosphere and a beautiful, colorful world,” Masahide Yanagawase, one of the most famous visual-effects artists in Japan, told The Epoch Times after watching the performance in Tokyo in 2009.

Shen Yun Performing Arts will perform an all-new 2012 program at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Segerstrom Center for the Arts Jan. 11–14. Please visit www.laspectacular.com

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