Shen Yun Enlightens and Uplifts for Three Generations

LAS VEGAS—Interior designer Erin Pratt, her mother Saundra, and her son Ayden took in the history and wonder of Shen Yun Performing Arts at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 29, 2020, and all three generations found joy in the experience.

“It was very much a mesh of past and present, and hopefully future, that we will see more of that,” said Erin. The Pratts appreciated the fact that New York-based Shen Yun is reviving a 5,000-year civilization rich in culture, which was once almost lost in China 80 years ago.

“You’ve got three generations here, so it was really fun to watch, and I think we all got something different out of it,” said Erin.

Saundra felt fortunate to see something that cannot even be seen in China, where the art forms on stage originated.

“I think it was important that we’re able to see something that they’re not able to see in their home country,” she said. “And it’s impressive … that we are able to express it [in the West], and enjoy the visual and cultural aspect of the show that the natural-born Chinese people are not able to enjoy right now.”

“So we’re fortunate, we’re very blessed to be able to see that, and I’m glad that my grandson did enjoy it,” Saundra said. “He was sitting on the edge of his seat most of the time. He hardly blinked.”

Ayden, who is currently interested in studying languages, and who has done dance, orchestra, band, and choir, was impressed with the vast scale of Shen Yun’s production.

While the company is known for being the foremost classical Chinese dance company in the world, a Shen Yun performance employs other unique aspects like an orchestra blending East and West, bel canto soloists, and an animated backdrop that took the Pratts’ breath away.

“It was well-timed,” Ayden said, impressed with how the dancers might appear on stage one moment and flying through the air on-screen the next. “It was really out there.”

Ayden enjoyed learning about the history of Chinese culture in such an artful way and said he hadn’t known the acrobatic techniques—the leaps, flips, and other tumbling—originated from classical Chinese dance.

“That was something I learned too,” Erin chimed in.

With a designer’s eye, Erin took in the fascinating color combinations, stage design, and choreography.

“It was beautiful, it was graceful, very moving,” she said. “I really enjoyed the costumes and the colors, and the different formations of the dance.”

For Erin, these beautiful facets came together to tell an important story of China’s lost spirituality.

“I think [it was a message] of freedom of expression really, I mean being able to express themselves through motion and storytelling through dance, expressing their culture, freedom to express their religion,” she said. “That was really interesting.”

The Pratts enjoyed seeing glimpses of ancient China’s many dynasties over 5,000 years, and various ethnic dances and folk dances from China’s many regions.

It made Saundra think how the culture must have developed over time, and what was collected from region to region in terms of culture.

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If you’ve been to a Shen Yun performance in previous years, you may have noticed shiny silver jewelry adorning our female dancers when they depict Hmong maidens. The silver crown stands out the most, and, although there are many stories about this group of people, there is one story about the crown that has been orally passed down that you may not have heard before. When enemies attempted to capture and kill the Hmong King, the Queen took his tall shiny crown and placed it atop her own head, tricking them and allowing the King time to escape. In this particular legend, the Hmong people were so inspired by their brave queen that they have worn headpieces similar in shape to the crown she put on. Other legends explain it differently, but this one highlights the virtues of selflessness and courage, which are always worth recalling.

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It is a shame Shen Yun cannot perform in China, she said, “but it’s a joy for us, and we will treasure it for them, and hopefully one day they will be able to appreciate that themselves. It was a blessing for us.”

With reporting by Linda Jiang.

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