Professional Flamenco Guitarist Blown Away by Scale and Quality of Shen Yun’s Orchestra

PHOENIX—A musician’s lifelong passion for his art gives him the ability to appreciate and feel connected to the work of other musicians, no matter how different their work may be. Such was the case at the Phoenix Orpheum on March 7, 2020, when flamenco guitarist Monte Perrault attended Shen Yun Performing Arts and took in the classical Chinese dances for which the company is renowned, as well as the original musical scores played by a live orchestra.

“It was nice to see the beauty of that culture, and also I would say the beauty and the precision of all of that [in Shen Yun] was really nice. I’m a musician. So I appreciate it. I play flamenco guitar,” Perrault said, referring to the beauty and precision of traditional Chinese culture, which Shen Yun is on a mission to revive.

“I am a professional. So we work with dancers, too—Flamenco dancers from Spain. So, I’m aware of … what it takes to make all of that happen—everybody has to study for years and years and years.”

Shen Yun is based in New York state where the artists from its seven touring companies train and create an all-new show each year. It is known around the globe for its rigorous standards and exacting skills, even by the high standards of the classical Chinese performing arts world.

“Yes, beautiful, precision, such excellent exquisite movement with all the dancers,” Perrault said. “Of course, the choreography, super cool. And then kind of the humor and some very poignant spirituality that was brought out was really nice, too. So all those things. And of course their presentation, the music, super, super good, world-class, and the dancers too.”

Perrault found the scale and professionalism of their orchestra and cast especially impressive.

“They are really top, really really nice,” he said. “All those positions—the orchestra—and also the Chinese musicians with their specialized instruments. All of them have to practice their whole life to perform that way.”

“I was kind of amazed actually that you have all those dancers and all the musicians … they’re performing their whole, studying all their lives … And to have that many musicians and that many dancers in one show, that was really, really nice.”

Shen Yun’s orchestra uniquely blends a classical Western style of orchestral sound together with select Chinese instruments and melodies. According to Shen Yun’s website, “Traditional Chinese music emphasizes the expression of inner feelings—the ancients always used musical instruments to relate their states of mind. Western music, meanwhile, focuses on the overall effect of the musical ensemble—and to achieve that, arrangement and harmony are of utmost importance. Shen Yun’s music combines these approaches to capture the essence of both East and West.”

What came to mind for Perrault while listening to the orchestra is that “somebody had to write all that music. That was amazing. Somebody had to write it all to go along with the dance. It wasn’t like music came first and the dancers interpreted the music.  It looked like it was put together kind of, the music to support the dance, and maybe back and forth. So that was nice.”

Perrault’s musical sensibilities proved correct: Each year, Shen Yun’s artistic director composes original scores for the entire performance.

The Flamenco guitarist found an aspect in Shen Yun that piqued his interest, a spiritual discipline he hadn’t heard of before: Falun Dafa.

Falun Dafa is an ancient meditation practice that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. Perrault learned not only learning of Falun Dafa‘s existence but about the persecution, its followers endure in China today at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. “I’m going to look it up and check [it out].”

Lastly, Perrault couldn’t help but marvel at the amount of effort that Shen Yun’s artists and their affiliated arts schools exhibit. “Really nice to see Chinese culture. And interesting that it’s that organization that big, the school that teaches all that dance if they have [seven] companies. That’s amazing. Super amazing.”

With reporting by Yawen Hung and Brett Featherstone.

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