Shen Yun


Shen Yun Performing Arts was founded in 2006 and is based in New York. Three different companies tour the world consecutively for seven months. The shows goal is to revive the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture. Shen Yun is associated with the Falun Gong spiritual practices and performances are often hosted by Falun Dafa associations. Some acts contain scenes that depict the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.

There are a number of different acts accompanied by a large projection screen and live orchestra. The orchestra contains both Chinese and Western instruments. The acts are presented in both Chinese and the local language. Shen Yun contains three types acts, dancing, singing and martial arts display. The songs are performed in Chinese with the lyrics displayed in the local language on the projection screen.

Dance is the main component to the performances and the style is built on a foundation of classical Chinese dance. Ethnic, folk and story based dances help keep Shen Yun’s style the purest form of Chinese dance. The unique movements have been passed down continuously for thousands of years, allowing no outside influences and revealing the richness of China’s long and complex heritage.

Movements in each of the dances are rich with expressive power, bringing out inner meanings of thoughts and feelings. Each of the performances tell stories filled with virtues from past to present and are meant to reflect human nature, moral concepts, mental state along with conduct and values. The movements in Chinese dance are circular and follow an Eastern saying of “beauty in roundness.” The dancers must practice difficult jumping and tumbling techniques along with flip and turning techniques not found in other dance styles. All the movements of the dancers are revolved around their breathing as to be led by the spirit or Shen. It is believed that in order for one to master the techniques of the Chinese dance, they must be of good moral character. Dancers will need 6 years of schooling and undergo strict physical training to perform the movements. Shen Yun only allows those who have practiced for 10 years to perform on stage.

 All of the costumes worn by the performers are all handcrafted with bright and colorful colors and match the amazing backdrops. Every performance tells a story. From the story of Hua Mulan, the female general who took her elderly father’s place in battle to the story of Yue Fei who had a dilemma of protecting his country or staying behind to care for his elderly mother.

In Jan of 2010, the government of Hong Kong refused entry visas for the performers and the shows had to be cancelled. In China’s past, everyone from the Emperor to the farmer lived in peace with the heavens and spirit. But in the 1950’s to the present, most of what made China’s culture so unique was lost to the communist rule. Shen Yun hopes to revive the spiritual aspect of China’s culture.

When I saw the performances, I was awestruck. It amazed me that not only could the human body move in such a way, but that such a powerful message could be portrayed with absolutely no words. The performers were really able to portray their love for the dance and the spirit that they represented. The backdrops helped give you the idea that you were back in China however many years ago as you moved from the past to the present. For anyone wanting to get a true idea of the culture of China and how it was before the communist rule, needs to see Shen Yun. The grace and elegance and powerful movements capture the imagination and this is one show I will continue to see year after year. No other performance has made me want to learn more about another culture like Shen Yun has. ~