Nevada Resident Moved to Tears During Shen Yun’s Storytelling Dance
LAS VEGAS—Being quietly moved to tears by positive inspiration isn’t common in today’s world. It is a common reaction, however, to Shen Yun Performing Arts, which is spearheading the revival of traditional Chinese culture which is deeply spiritual and richly emotional.
Olga Chumbe, a private client banker, got tears in her eyes watching a storytelling dance staged by New York-based Shen Yun about two brothers who find themselves on opposite sides of the persecution of innocent spiritual believers in China—one ordered to attack believers in a park, the other moved to defend them—a persecution that is unfortunately all too real today.
“It was very sad,” Chumbe said, about the classical Chinese dance piece in question. “That made me cry. It was a beautiful—everything was beautiful. Very touching. I really like the culture. I didn’t realize China has so much culture. “Abetting The Wicked” really got me.” Chumbe and her husband Chris Hristov attended Shen Yun at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas on Feb. 29, 2020.
“We loved the [Shen Yun] show. It was beautiful. We loved the performances,” Chumbe said.
“We loved it. It’s great. We’ve been waiting to see it for a long time,” said Hristov, who is an engineer.
“For two years I’ve been waiting to see it,” Chumbe added. “[The dancing] was very different and it was beautiful. We really, we enjoyed it.”
Shen Yun’s roughly 20 vignettes vary in art form from bel canto vocal performances to storytelling dances to solo instrumentalists to ethnic and folk dances. But a common thread throughout the production is the acknowledgment of the divine, a thread which has its roots in China’s 5,000-year-old heritage. The depiction of persecution and the struggle of conscience in the storytelling dance vignette “Abetting the Wicked” is only one of the many divinely-inspired themes in the performance.
“You don’t realize, maybe we take for granted,” Chumbe explained, about why the story of the brothers made her cry, “especially when you live in a country where you have the freedom to believe in whom you want to believe in, and the religion you want to choose. … That’s just sad. You take for granted the freedoms that you have.”
Her wish for the people of China who are living under an atheist and violent regime is “I really hope that it changes. Everybody has the right to choose and no one has the right to tell you whom to believe in and it’s really sad what’s happening.”
Chumbe and Hristov appreciated Shen Yun’s orchestra for the effect it had on them as well for opening their eyes—and ears—to instruments they hadn’t heard before.
“We loved the music. I loved the instruments,” Chumbe said. “I think they did a very good job at describing the instruments cause you don’t realize. There was a lot of Chinese instruments that we don’t know what they were and so when [the emcees] were explaining, that was actually really cool.”
The effect of instruments such as the pipa and erhu, blended into the Western-style orchestra in a way only Shen Yun has accomplished, had a positive effect on the banker.
“It was calming. I was smiling a lot,” Chumbe said.
“She liked the tenor though,” her husband chimed in.
“Oh, yes, the tenor was amazing,” Chumbe said. The lyrics the bel canto tenor sang in a solo performance stood out to her especially. The song touched on belief and the plight under communism and it spoke to Chumbe.
“We need to stay grounded. I like that. I like the message,” she said. In fact, throughout the show, Chumbe gleaned deep meaning that she was grateful for. “I like the message—be kind, believe in God. It’s very spiritual. I liked it.”
Since time immemorial, Chinese people have passed down a legend about the Creator returning to the world for all mankind. Shen Yun carries on this tradition by portraying it their performance. The tenor of the evening even mentions Him in the song. This was one of the most powerful aspects of the show for Chumbe.
Since Chumbe and Hristov believe in the Creator and His eventual return, they enjoyed being reminded of this legend and it made them think about it more deeply.
“Yes, I didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t think a lot of people realize it. Or maybe you kind of know but you don’t really feel it until you’re watching or you see it. In the [Shen Yun] show, it shows you, you feel it, you’re there.
“He is [coming back]. So you have to be kind and you have to believe in God,” is how Chumbe described her own beliefs and also what she saw in Shen Yun.
“He will take you home one day. I believe that as well, yes,” Chris said.
To the performers, Chumbe and Hristov wanted to convey their gratitude and delight.
“It was just beautiful. And thank you for coming to Vegas. Keep doing what you’re doing. Good job. Beautiful message,” Chumbe said.
“Absolutely,” Chris agreed. “And I loved that [the artistic director] changes the stories every year.”
“Every year. We didn’t know that,” Chumbe said.
“That will bring us back,” Hristov added.
With reporting by Jana Li and Brett Featherstone.
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