‘Everybody Danced Like They Were Soloists:’ Dance Instructor Praises Shen Yun Dancers’ Skills
PHILADELPHIA—For two hours, dancers of Shen Yun Performing Arts enthrall with classical Chinese dance and stories that traverse 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.
Dance instructor Lester Holmes was mesmerized by the pageantry of the production.
“The performance level, the nuance, the artistry, the emotion, and the talent blew me away,” Holmes said. “It was amazing.”
Holmes was previously a professional dancer, singer, and acrobat on Broadway before turning to dance teaching and choreographing. He currently teaches ballet, tap dance, and acrobatics at The Pennsylvania School of the Performing Arts, The Roxey Ballet, and Dance World Academy. He previously instructed at STEPS, a dance studio in New York City, and has also taught ballet in Florence, Italy.
The dance teacher saw the performance at the Merriam Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Feb. 23. New York-based Shen Yun is partway through its 25-performance run in the city, playing before packed crowds day after day.
Holmes raved about the skill level of the dancers.
“Everybody danced like they were soloists,” he said.
He pointed out the incredible technique and precision achieved by the dancers. For instance, the way the dancers were able to hold their développés (when a leg is drawn up and extended to an open position), he said, demonstrated a remarkable control and fluidity in the legs.
“The legs on both the men and the women—phenomenal,” Holmes said. “180 in every direction.”
“[They were] doing these huge leaps and landing like a feather.”
The dance instructor said the dancers performed so well, it allowed him to simply sit back, relax, and soak in the performance.
“It was wonderful. [I] didn’t have to analyze, didn’t have to think,” Holmes said.
Shen Yun dancers are classically trained, world-class professionals in classical Chinese and ethnic dance styles. Classical Chinese dance, an ancient art form refined over thousands of years, has a rigorous physical component that includes unique movements and postures, as well as difficult flips, jumps, and tumbling techniques. Alongside ballet, it ranks as one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world.
The choreography of the production was also amazing, said Holmes.
“They had so much fun with [the choreography], and there was so much variety,” he said.
Besides classical Chinese dance, and ethnic or folk dance vignettes, Shen Yun’s choreographers also craft stories told through dance, adding a dash of drama to the production. Dancers play characters from tales harking back to China’s classics such as “Journey to the West” or “Butterfly Lovers,” as well as stories from modern-day China.
Holmes was so impressed by the performance he said he would be telling everyone to come.
As to whether the dance professional drew any inspiration from Shen Yun’s unique choreography, Holmes replied: “Absolutely.”
“I’m going to try imitate those steps tomorrow.”
With reporting by Wei Yong.
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