Shen Yun: The Spectacular Show of Chinese Dance and Music
Some shows simply come and go, while others stay etched in memory for many years to follow. Shen Yun Performing Arts easily defines the second category, offering a dazzling spectacle of Chinese dance and music drawing on 5,000 years of artistic tradition. There is a great opportunity to catch this astounding exhibition of cultural expression in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center, February 5-14.
Based in New York and founded in 2006, Shen Yun is rapidly establishing itself as the premier performing arts group focused entirely on traditional Chinese dance, music and dress. In contrast to China’s Communist regime, which has sought to repress the country’s artistic legacy, Shen Yun’s mission is to breathe new life into traditional art forms and introduce them to audiences from all cultures.
Each year, Shen Yun offers a completely new selection of dances, songs and musical scores performed by three different groups. One is based in New York, one tours the U.S. and the third performs internationally. Drawing upon the talents of Chinese artists from all over the world, Shen Yun’s productions have met with critical and popular acclaim, often moving audiences to their feet at the end of their shows. The company’s shows feature numerous acts comprised of hundreds of elaborately costumed dancers.
Audiences are transported through Chinese history, geography and culture via an assortment of drum dances; handkerchief dances; dances with Imperial-inspired choreography; folk dances; and displays of wushu, an ancient Chinese martial art.
Shen Yun’s productions feature three types of dance. The first, Chinese classical dance, is a mesmerizing combination of artistic technique with athleticism with dancers leaping, pirouetting and tumbling while moving in synchronized patterns.
The second, ethnic and folk dance, draws inspiration from the country’s minority populations. Since China is home to numerous distinctive ethnic groups, Shen Yun has a nearly limitless cultural pool from which to draw for its choreography, from the bamboo homes of a Dai village to the plains of Mongolia.
The third form is story-based dance, a Shen Yun trademark offering dramatic retellings of popular tales, many of which convey fable-like messages that remain as relevant today as when they were written.
No evening of dance would be complete without impressive musical accompaniment. Shen Yun’s orchestra combines Eastern and Western musical influences, using Western instruments as its foundation and Chinese instruments, such as two-stringed erhus and bamboo flutes, for extra musical flair. Chinese opera singers and thunderous drummers add even more dimension to Shen Yun’s dramatic program.
Rounding out the experience, elaborate set designs with digital backdrops transport the dancers, as well as the audience, to fantastic worlds such as celestial palaces, floating cloudscapes and sprawling grasslands. With so much to stir the imagination and the heart, it’s not surprising that Shen Yun is consistently praised as one of the world’s most unforgettable and innovative performing arts companies.