Globetrotter and Former Executive Calls Shen Yun ‘Something Completely Different’
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Today’s world is incredibly multi-cultural and international, but it wasn’t always so. The “it’s a small world” feeling we now have begun to be pioneered decades ago by multi-hyphenates such as retired engineer and company president Dirk Lindenbeck.
Lindenbeck, who has helmed diamond tool manufacturing companies in Germany, South Africa, Brazil, and the United States, attended the world-renowned classical Chinese dance company Shen Yun Performing Arts with his wife on Feb. 6, 2020 and the Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. He brought his global perspective to bear while reviewing the group’s rare combination of Eastern and Western musical components and their revival of traditional Chinese culture.
“[Shen Yun] was great. It was something completely different,” said Lindenbeck, who most recently retired from running his own North Carolina-based manufacturing operation, Stainless Valve Company, which his son is now the president of.
“This show here is a mix of Chinese and Western music, which makes it very interactive, attractive for people who don’t know Chinese music but do know Western music. So it fits together and makes it easier to understand the Chinese music,” he said.
New York-based Shen Yun’s mission is to see China’s ancient and deeply-spiritual culture be reborn through the arts. Each of their seven touring companies brings with it a full, live-orchestra comprised of instruments from the East and the West, such as the erhu and the pipa.
“For thousands of years,” according to Shen Yun’s website, “the pipa, or Chinese lute, has reigned as the ‘king’ of Chinese folk instruments. This plucked instrument is often found in the hands of heavenly maidens depicted in traditional paintings. The pipa’s construction further epitomizes ancient Chinese beliefs. Its body, by traditional Chinese measurement, is three feet five inches, representing the three powers—heaven, the earth, and man, and the five elements—metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.”
It isn’t only the instruments that make Shen Yun’s music so special. The way the instruments are integrated together is unique in the world.
“First, the Western orchestra serves as a foundation, accentuating the distinct sound of Chinese instruments. Second, the bedrock of soul-stirring melodies from the ancient Middle Kingdom is fully brought to life by a Western symphony,” their website continues.
Lindenbeck enjoyed the chance to learn about authentic Chinese culture.
“It is interesting to learn this way,” he said, “how China was developing, what the historical background is. And to understand why this type of music is developed over the centuries or thousands of years.”
A Shen Yun performance consists of roughly 20 short dance pieces that include stories, legends, and ethnic and folk dances. Between each piece, emcees briefly give the audience context and background information about elements that may be unfamiliar to them. This, combined with the stage production itself and the program book, is what many say they appreciate about the learning experience of Shen Yun.
A foundation of traditional Chinese culture is its spirituality. Since time immemorial, Chinese people have always believed in the divine and have passed down a legend that the Creator of the world will one day return for all mankind. Shen Yun continues this tradition by including depictions of the Creator in its stories, as well as themes of good versus evil, faith, and compassion.
Lindenbeck recognized that today’s China is ruled by an atheist regime that has tried to stamp out all forms of China’s spirituality during the decades its been in power. But Shen Yun doesn’t only portray sad scenes of persecution now going on in that country, it provides hope and an alternative that everyone can draw inspiration from.
“[Shen Yun’s spirituality] is something which takes you and makes you enjoy what you’re listening to and hearing and when you also understand then, that this performance is trying to counteract the negative actions which over the last hundred years or so, have made the country suffer, then it’s always better when a positive step is there, which can have the chance to do away with the negative aspects,” Lindenbeck said.
Lindenbeck, who met his wife in Brazil and is originally from Germany, first heard about Shen Yun from relatives in Asia, where Shen Yun is an especially big hit.
“The parents-in-law of my eldest son did invite us [to Shen Yun] and they are from Korea. So, it’s really international.”
Audience members including government officials and well-known artists in countries such as Taiwan and South Korea report that everyone in their circles knows and loves Shen Yun. Performances there are regularly sold out weeks in advance.
The “small world” effect will continue on thanks to Lindenbeck, who said he and his wife will encourage his contacts to see Shen Yun wherever it performs around the globe. “We will definitely tell friends and family,” he said.
With reporting by NTD Television and Brett Featherstone.
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