A company of Chinese dancers is taking the world by storm with productions that showcase ancient Chinese mythology and traditions. ShenYun features lavish costumes, an animated backdrop and live orchestra supporting some of the world’s best exponents of Chinese classical dance.
The company was founded in New York in 2006 when a group of thirty Chinese artists decided to rediscover customs and values rarely practised since the Cultural Revolution. The group met with immediate success and has grown exponentially. Shen Yun now employs four hundred artists across four companies performing in over twenty countries each year.
Perth business entrepreneur Mark Hutchison has been instrumental in bringing the group to Perth for their first performance on May 1st. Shen Yun translates as ‘the beauty of heavenly beings dancing’ and Hutchison says when he first watched a performance it was like being transported to another land.
“The beauty and positive energy was very moving,” he said. “The dancers’ athletic ability and purity of heart made it the pinnacle of art in terms of quality. I flew my family to Sydney to see the show and vowed to bring Shen Yun to Perth.”
Shen Yun brings to life legends such as the heroine Mulan on the battlefield or the Tang Monk and his disciples Friar Sand, Pigsy and the Monkey King. The production intersperses these ancient stories with the struggles within modern communist China, spanning 5000 years of history. The dancers are accompanied by a unique orchestra that includes Chinese instruments like the urhu and pipa alongside western instruments.
Hutchison conducted business in China for many years and more recently has begun to appreciate the cultural wisdom of the ancient civilisation.
“You can’t have culture without values. Values hold together not just an individual but civilisation itself. Chinese civilisation was intact for 5000 years because of its enduring values, thought to be handed down from the heavens.”
Many of these ancient traditions – including China’s traditional religions Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism - were eroded during the Cultural Revolution. More recently Falun Gong, which encapsulates the values of all three, was perceived as a threat and banned by the Communist Party. Shen Yun showcases these traditional wisdoms and as a result the company is not permitted to perform in China.
While Shen Yun’s gentle protests against tyranny have attracted negative attention from the Chinese government, its artistic credentials have made it a worldwide phenomenon in a fascinating example of the political power of the arts. Hutchison says at its heart the show is about beauty and positive energy.
“Shen Yun is a very expressive classical Chinese dance form that is reviving these beautiful values. You don’t need to understand the language to appreciate the values.”
Shen Yun is at the Regal Theatre May 1—4th
This article copyright The West Australian 2014.