WASHINGTON, D.C.—Kelly Donley is a lover of the performing arts, but she last went to the theater just two weeks before the pandemic hit the United States. It wasn’t until Jan. 24 that she returned, and as a gift from her daughter-in-law attended the opening night of Shen Yun Performing Arts at The Kennedy Center Opera House.
“This is a visual extravaganza. It is so rich in tradition, history, artistry. It is magnificent to watch. It really is, it really is,” said Ms. Donley, a vice president at the Association of American Railroads.
She found a dance showing ancient scholars and poetry inspiring, a historical piece depicting a mother’s sacrifice moving, and “the water sleeves were so magnificent.”
“The music is lovely. The tenor and the pianist, the skill … I love it all,” Ms. Donley said.
New York-based Shen Yun is the world’s top classical Chinese dance company, and in recent years has set a new bar for the art form internationally. As its website states, the company uses the universal languages of dance and music to revive 5,000 years of China’s divinely inspired civilization.
A Shen Yun production includes much more than dance, as Ms. Donley noted. Each of the eight dance companies tour with a full orchestra, the first in the world to permanently combine ancient Chinese instruments into a classical orchestral ensemble. Shen Yun also holds a patent for its animated backdrop technology, which works with the performers to merge stage and screen, heaven and earth.
“The dancing is just beautiful, the costumes. And I love the way of the animations that they do in the background, that is so well done, so very well done,” said Patricia Schwall, retired vice president in advertising and marketing, who attended with her husband Roger. “And of course, I love the stories. I think it’s excellent. I’m so glad we came.”
“What struck me is a lot of the motifs. I know they’re 5,000 years old, but they’re fresh today too,” she said. “I was thinking about the joy that their dancing brings. And that’s a very positive thing.”
Reporting by Terri Wu.