WASHINGTON—When dance teacher Smita Khatri saw Shen Yun Performing Arts, her first reaction was “wow.” The elegant dancers in flowing dresses moving with unity on stage, coupled with live melodious music gave her a newfound appreciation for classical Chinese dance.
“I thought it was—wow. It was so well synchronized and just beautiful,” said Khatri.
Khatri saw Shen Yun with her partner Patrick Chapman at The Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington on April 21. The New York-based company tours the world with the mission to revive China’s 5,000 years of semi-divine culture.
The performance uses classical Chinese dance as its foundation but also incorporates folk and ethnic dance styles from various regions and minority groups across China.
Khatri, who teaches Bollywood and Indian folk dance, was intrigued by the classical Chinese dance style and the training the performers would have gone through.
“I was curious about their training because they move with such ease and grace. So I wonder what their training is like and what kind of, there’s something that makes someone light on their feet in that way. And I saw that they were very light on their feet. And you could hardly hear them. It’s like they were tiptoeing around the dance floor,” she said.
Classical Chinese dance has a history of thousands of years and was passed down continuously within the imperial palace and ancient Chinese theater and opera while absorbing the best from every era and dynasty. The dance movements are unique, as it can bring out the inner meaning of intrinsic thoughts and feelings, reflecting the peculiarities of human nature, the standard for human conduct, moral concepts, mental state, and one’s value system. China’s deep cultural traditions are contained in classical Chinese dance, allowing its movements to be richly expressive.
The expression comes from the performer’s bearing and form. A performer’s “bearing” describes his or her particular inner spirit and is formed by a combination of something resembling cultural DNA or an ethnic flavor, together with the heritage of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, according to Shen Yun. “Form,” on the other hand, refers to the techniques and methods expressed externally.
Khatri said by experiencing Shen Yun she was able to learn more about this dance system and how it influenced our current arts and sports.
“I learned that like a lot of the backflips that we do in gymnastics or whatever come from Chinese classical dance,” she said.
Chapman, an attorney, shared similar thoughts with Khatri. He applauded the dancers for their ability to dance in perfect unison.
“There was just the grace of the dancers, and just precision as far as timing is concerned; the costumes are beautiful. The meaning and the different parts were beautiful and tying it into the divine. It’s really beautiful,” Chapman said.
“I just love the different dance style. And the story told within the dance. Not a word had to be expressed. It was something you could just sit back and be in awe of.”
He also enjoyed learning about Chinese civilization and being able to travel through China’s history through about 20 vignettes in the performance.
“I think anytime you can learn the way a group lives, and culturally understand how that developed from years ago to modern time, it’s a blessing to understand,” he said. “So I very much appreciate the effort that they make.”
With reporting by Samira Bouaou.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.