Shen Yun 2012, which will be stopping on its national tour at the Overture Center on April 4-5, is a tremendous showcase of traditional Chinese culture that has been passed down through 5,000 years of Chinese History.
After more than 60 years of Communist rule in China, and especially after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traditional culture has been all but completely demolished. However, the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture with its values of benevolence, honor, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens, cannot be destroyed.
Shen Yun 2012, which will be stopping on its national tour at the Overture Center on April 4 and 5, keeps that all alive with a tremendous showcase of traditional Chinese culture that has been passed down through 5000 years of Chinese history.
“I think everybody would benefit from seeing Shen Yun,” says Jane Yi Kosinski, who has been helping to promote the event here in Madison and who also teaches Chinese. “Chinese culture is divine culture. I benefited from learning about this culture. This is a great opportunity for other people to learn about Chinese culture. I want as many people to be able to enjoy the show as possible. Audiences have been amazed by it.”
Kosinski grew up in Hangzhou, a 1,500-year old historical city in China that was once the capital of the Song Dynasty, but she knew very little of her long and fantastic Chinese history.
“We didn't learn anything about our hometown history when I was young. Nobody really appreciated Chinese culture when I was growing up in China,” Kosinski remembers. “We didn't know anything about our great traditions. I've heard my grandma talk about it a little bit, but we have been brainwashed by the Communists for the most part. So nobody knew much of our history.
“We didn't know anything related to the divine culture,” she adds. “We never learned anything about our own Asian people. This is a great human heritage and precious moral values which should be shared with the entire world. Each of us would benefit from a better understanding and appreciation of divine Chinese traditional culture.”
Shen Yun Performing Arts, formerly known as Divine Performing Arts, is a performing arts and entertainment company based in New York. Each year, Shen Yun creates original productions lasting two and a half hours and consisting of approximately 20 vignettes featuring classical Chinese dance and ethnic dance, as well as solo musicians and operatic signers. Founded in 2006, Shen Yun states that its underlying mission is to "revive the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture,” which it asserts to have been nearly demolished by the Chinese Communist government.
“I saw Shen Yun at Radio City Music Hall [in New York City] in 2006 and it changed my life,” Kosinski says. “The first time I saw this show I learned a lot.... I was shocked.”
The show presents Chinese dance, music, and song and the scope of the show is cross-cultural with it's exquisite choreography, beautiful costumes, and top-notch production values. Shen Yun is composed of three performing arts companies: The New York Company, The Touring Company, and the International Company, with of a total of almost 300 performers.
“Currently, one Shen Yun company is showing in Europe, one is showing in Taiwan. one is showing in U.S.,” Kosinski says. “They started during the Christmas season and it goes until the end of May. And then they start over working on a new production. That's why they work so hard because everything is new every year — new music, new costume design, new digital and animated backdrops. Everything is new.”
For seven months a year, Shen Yun Performing Arts tours to over 130 cities across Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia. Shen Yun's shows have been staged in several leading theaters, including New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and Paris’ Le Palais de Congrès. The show's acts and production staff are trained at Shen Yun’s headquarters in upstate New York.
“The show is for all ages. Everybody can come,” Kosinski says. “For children, it is really educational. For adults, it's inspirational. And senior people love it because it is so colorful and the music is so gorgeous. It's beautiful.”
Shen Yun’s dancers perform wearing intricate costumes, often accompanied by a variety of props. Some costumes are intended to imitate the dress various ethnicities, while other depict ancient Chinese court dancers, soldiers, or characters from classic stories. Props include colorful handkerchiefs, drums, fans, chopsticks, or silk scarves.
“There is so much effort devoted to this show,” Kosinski says. “All of the costumes are handmade. They are so beautiful and made of silk fabric. You can't make silk fabric like that with a machine. All of the decorations for the head are handmade. Every year they change costumes. Every year the show is different.”
Each Shen Yun piece is set against a digitally projected backdrop, usually depicting landscapes such as Mongolian grasslands, imperial courts, ancient villages, temples, or mountains. Not all the backdrops are static; some contain moving elements that integrate with the performance.
Each year, they pick a different period of time in Chinese history to bring to life. This year, they have chosen the Tang Dynasty (June 18, 618 – June 1, 907), an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire.
“The Tang Dynasty was the Golden Age,” Kosinski says. “Japanese culture, Korean culture... all of Asian culture has been influenced by the Tang Dynasty 1,500 years ago. There were several different emperors that were great.”
So far, the Shen Yun Performing Arts' 2012 tour in the U.S. has been a great success sharing the beautiful culture of China with all the nation. It's an incredible production, Kosinski says, that should not be missed.
“There are important lessons and inspirations that people can get from the production,” she says. “People have told me that this show has changed their lives and has given them new life. There is really nothing else like it.”
“Shen Yun - Reviving 5,000 Years of Civilization” will take place Wednesday-Thursday, April 4-5 at the Overture Hall.
Experience the world’s premier classical Chinese dance company. Discover the glory of a fantastically rich culture, that of classical China, brought to life through brilliantly choreographed dance and mesmerizing, all-original orchestral compositions, showcasing a fusion of traditional Chinese instruments with classical Western instruments.
Tickets are $53.50 and $103.50. For more information, visit www.shenyun2012.com.