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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shen Yun brings cultural extravaganza to Academy of Music

Five thousand years of history -- a culture rich in symbolism, myth and abiding values -- Shen Yun Performing Arts

Music that is sublime, and movement and dance that almost literally takes the breath away.

Shen Yun, an entertainment extravaganza with a cast of 100 performers that reveals the beauty and grandeur of the ancient Chinese heritage, will make a return appearance at Philadelphia's Academy of Music on Feb. 22 and 23.

The show, which has three performing troupes traveling the globe, has now dazzled 800,000 audience members around the world.

Presented by the Greater Philadelphia Asian Culture Center and the Greater Philadelphia Falun Dafa Association, the show has English narration, and also projects English translations of any Chinese lyrics on a digital animation backdrop.

"The real mission of Shen Yun is to revive traditional Chinese culture, along with the values that have been foundational to that ancient system," explains Kelly Wen, a master of ceremonies/narrator for the upcoming Philadelphia show. Wen, who has direct contact with audiences, prepares show-goers for the 20 vignettes which tell the stories, in song and dance, of some of the core principles presented in the show, from loyalty and compassion to truth and justice.

"There are Chinese instruments like the Erhu and Pipa, and the show is performed by talented artists from around the world," says Wen, who herself grew up with a passion for the performing arts, and is trained in classical Chinese dance.

She continues, "As an ethnic Chinese person growing up in the West, this show has given me a wonderful opportunity to rediscover my roots. Chinese dance is intertwined with the 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture."

Cindy Wang, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Asian Culture Society, notes that the Shen Yun company, based in upstate New York, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring the Chinese performing arts to the forms and disciplines that existed prior to the communist takeover of China.

"We not only present the legendary tales," says Wang, "we also address some important social issues in contemporary China."

Costumes are elaborate, handmade and hand-dyed to ensure that color quality is pure, according to Wang.

"Audiences always gasp at the beauty and complexity of the costumes and the sets."

Because the production values of Shen Yun also are extraordinary, with lavish sets and stage movement, families are encouraged to share the experience with children.

"My own daughter has been coming since she was 5 years old, and now she's 9 and still can't wait to see the show," says Wang.

But the real meaning of the production reaches beyond costumes and sets. "The character "shen' in Chinese means divine, and this show, we believe, has the power to elevate mind and spirit to higher realms," suggests Wen. "The show's message of hope really helps to promote important values and harmony, something we especially need in today's world." More at Courier Post

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