Ancient Legend Brought To Life in Divine Dance

If ever there was a magical, dance extravaganza, to behold, it would have to be Shen Yun.  I had the pleasure to attend one of these masterful musical dance events at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza and I loved every second of it.  It is unlike any other dance theater performance in the world because of what Shen Yun holds sacred and represents.  Even the title Shen Yun means, “the beauty of heavenly beings dancing.” You know that something special is going to take place when you are immediately taken in with the exotic backgrounds being portrayed on the stage with the beautiful, lavish costumes, the dancers wear. The beautiful colors alone, easily draw you in.  The dances are all derived from China’s five-thousand-year-old civilization.

Shen Yun was established in 2006.  It was an instant success and each year thereafter the

show returns brand new, performing all over the world.  Chinese artists in these productions have a genuine interest in reviving Chinese culture.  Shen Yun is an independent, non-profit organization based in New York.  If you think traditional Chinese dance is rudimentary, it is not.  Each dance has its own style and ways the dance must be performed.  Each dancer is trained in dance, postures and how to physically show true inner feelings.  Of course all dances performed include turns, flips, spins and high-flying aerial and tumbling moves.  No dance is ever performed without the value of perfecting traditional aesthetics.

I personally was so taken with the magnificent costumes and stage presence of each and every dancer.  In unison, every finger, hand gesture and movement was an overture in perfection in every dancer. You see how much each dancer is disciplined in detail that makes these dances so memorable.  My favorite part was watching the dancers’ feet.  More or less, all dances are done with just feet and no shoes!   The women seemed to have small booties on their feet while the men wore socks or stockings.  I have always thought that a dancer can dance better with just feet and no shoes.  These incredible Chinese dancers definitely proved me right.

I loved the true, theater experience, as brought alive by the incredible orchestra.  They played all original music specifically written for this specific performance.  The ancient melodies are rich and sometimes

haunting.  By using a Western orchestra, the production is able to bring new sounds to ancient tradition and the results are captivating.  I also learned about a new instrument (that is not new but a traditional Chinese instrument) thousands of years old.  It is called the Erhu and has only two strings.  It is said that the Erhu is the instrument most capable of resembling the human voice and can evoke both sweet melodies to intense battle sounds.   As with any theater production, there was a segment of singing done by a baritone singer and at a later time in the production, a soprano singer.  What was particularly so inspiring about their performances was the Chinese lyrics translated into English, flashing on the background screen.  The songs were filled with love of heaven and the belief in the beauty and journey of the soul.  The messages were loud and clear, not to throw away the timelessness of the spirit and uphold the value of what is considered old tradition, as it is viewed as godly in nature and not to be forgotten but revered.

Another mesmerizing element of Shen Yun, is the always stunning and ever-changing background stage scenes that make the dance performances come alive with each new dance segment performed.  They actually own the patent for their innovative invention of this scenery, as it was invented by Shen Yun’s artistic director.  It is a system that allows performers to travel back and forth between the stage and the animated backdrop.  It is a real treat for one’s senses to see the integrated back and forth movement and animated images, portraying historical civilization so vividly!  This is true, original, artistic theater at its best!

If you love all kinds of dance, you will value and appreciate the influence classical Chinese dance has on so many other dance forms and athletics done today.  It is definitely an experience in the wonders of a lost world brought alive, and there is such a beautiful, spiritual feeling, coming away from Shen Yun.  I thought, “great, now I can knock this off of my bucket list,” but you know what, I think I’ll have to go back one more time, “I just didn’t get enough.”

Thought Of The Week:

Make peace with yourself and both heaven and earth will make peace with you  –  Isaac of Nineveh


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Shane Meuwissen is the Media Specialist for Fordney Foundation.  He is a former dance instructor who know works with his company Slow Motion Dance Videos capture the beauty of dancing. If you would like to learn more about Shane and his video work, visit his website