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“SHEN YUN” through the lens of a Kuchipudi dancer

Renowned for its classical Chinese dance performances, Shen Yun Performing Arts recently captivated audiences in Woking, United Kingdom, and is poised to embark on a tour across various cities in the United Kingdom. Guided by the visionary D.F., founder and artistic director, Shen Yun aims to revive China's 5,000-year-old cultural heritage. D.F., a distinguished professor of music and dance at Fei Tian College in New York, has played a pivotal role in shaping Shen Yun since its inception in 2006, serving as the artistic director, costume designer, and director of classical Chinese dance.

Program Highlights: The two-and-a-half-hour performance featured 19 distinct pieces, including Chinese classical dance, Chinese dance stories, and ethnic and folk dances. Each piece contributed to the grand narrative, ranging from the celestial mission in "Time of Salvation Begins" to the visually enchanting "Yellow Blossoms" in folk dance form. The performance explored diverse narratives, such as "Kindness Rewarded" and the lively "Thousands of Years, All for one show," highlighting the musical skills of a two-stringed erhu. Traditional Chinese legends came to life in pieces like "Monkey Battles Red Child," and the show concluded with "Grand Perfection," portraying contemporary China with a reminder of timeless virtues.

Personal Reflection: As someone in the audience, the enchanting beauty of Chinese classical dance made a lasting impression on me. The incorporation of props like fans and sleeves added a unique charm to the performance, and the seamless blend of technology and live action, particularly in "Golden Monkey Battles Red Child," was truly captivating.

Official trailer by Shen Yun for the 2024 tour

Distinctive Features of the Show: Beyond the remarkable dancing skills of the performers and the vibrant costumes and props, what truly distinguishes Shen Yun is its Digital Interaction. This exclusive and patented system, established in 2016, seamlessly combines animated backdrops with live performers, expanding the stage and transporting the audience across different eras and locations. The incorporation of digital technology as an integral part of the show significantly heightened the overall experience.

Desire for More Variety: While enjoying the show, I couldn't help but notice some repetition in movements and music, leaving me yearning for more variety. While not claiming expertise, as a member of the audience, I wished for a bit more diversity in the choreography, especially after the intermission.

At "New Victoria Theatre", Woking

Connection to Indian Classical Dance in My Experience: As I observed the performance, my background in Indian classical dance drew my attention to striking similarities between the two art forms. I would like to take a moment to highlight and discuss these shared aspects that resonated with me during the show.

Visual Splendor of Chinese Classical Dance: The Chinese classical dance segment, with its graceful formations and intricate choreography, was visually stunning. This aspect drew parallels with the Piṇḍībandha concept in Nāṭyaśāstra, emphasizing group formations of dancers.

Storytelling in Chinese Dance Stories: The Chinese dance stories presented relatable narratives, akin to the Solo items in Kuchipudi. While acrobatic movements were more prevalent in Chinese classical dance, the usage of different hand gestures and minor limbs adds uniqueness to Indian classical dance.

Correlations to Indian Themes: Kālidāsa and Swayamvara Concept: "Kindness Rewarded" resonated with the story of Kālidāsa in Indian texts, where a mischievous boy transformed into a scholar. The piece "Devotion" echoed the "Swayamvara" concept in Indian culture, depicting the selection of a spouse through unique rituals.

Correlation to Lokadharmi Concept in Ethnic Dance: The ethnic dance segment correlated with the Lokadharmi concept in Indian classical dance, portraying movements representing nature and animals, echoing thematic elements found in Indian dance traditions.

Conclusion: My experience with Shen Yun not only allowed me to appreciate the beauty and skill of Chinese classical dance but also revealed fascinating parallels with concepts, storytelling, and staging techniques found in Indian classical dance traditions. The universality of certain artistic elements bridged cultural boundaries, making the performance a truly enriching and relatable experience.


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