Note: This article has been updated from its original publication on Feb. 19, 2019.
In the midst of one of the gloomiest periods in American history, my decision to bring some light into your lives came as a result of a recent performance I attended at Lincoln Center. Within the confines of our homes or apartments during the winter’s chill, and before the buds begin to bloom, there is promise of positive change–if only for a few hours.
As a die-hard New Yorker, albeit a slightly jaded one, it is rare for me to experience a performance that defies description; that is, one that has overwhelmed, excited and completely mesmerized my tired self! Such was the case after witnessing Shen Yun, one of the city’s most breathtaking shows, appearing at Lincoln Center, March 6 – 17th.
As an extension of a holiday gift for my 8-year-old granddaughter, I decided to splurge on tickets for something other than the Mary Poppins variety of cinema, as I have finally come to terms with my limits on “most” things pertaining to entertainment for the younger set. I have reached my critical mass more than once. The grouch in me, rearing its ugly head!
However, what I was unprepared for was the extraordinary magic, the visual feast and the seduction from the stage as Shen Yun’s dance troupe leapt through the screen, conjuring the possibility of flight, allowing the viewer an endless stream of imagination while reflecting on many of life’s opportunities– while there is still hope.
I’ve come to understand, after viewing a multitude of disappointing productions, that we are the students on a director’s path, played out by a cast of characters following his or her lead. Film and theatre allow only as much imagination as the director demands, often with boundaries placed by the producers financing the end product. As I’ve learned, politics have also played a strong role in determining what is being released, when, and through what means of distribution. Studio heads wield their weight in areas outside the bedroom, although the intrigues that we have heard about this past year have left us wondering if there’s time for “work”.
As New Yorkers, we are privileged to have access to a vast variety of stage, music and screen productions at arm’s reach. We have inherently become selective and sensitive to sub-mediocre offerings and blast our personal reviews to any and all who care to listen. Over the years I’ve noticed that there are far more self-appointed “film critics” riding the M2, 3, 4 bus and the 4, 5, 6 trains than those writing for the New York Times.
Therefore, when I first viewed the TV ads for Shen Yun I–the jaded me, that is–thought that all who effused their delight were hired by the Shen Yun PR people. Men, women, and children all expressing endless amounts of enthusiasm, seemed a Hollywood hype with “actors” hired straight from central casting. Well, as much as I hate to admit this, I was wrong.
After the opening set of dancers leapt onstage, it was clear that this was something truly rare. Over the recent past, we’ve all been conditioned to experience only small doses of beauty thanks to technology’s interference in our natural world. What I came to appreciate–and many others have as well–was a sense of hope, of possibilities, of a power within all of us to go beyond the limits set by society. As if these euphoric emotions were not enough…
As my granddaughter and I were leaving the David Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, we were stopped by a woman requesting to interview us for Chinese TV. My inner child was in full force, “outed” for the world to watch. Fortunately, I had had the foresight to apply lipstick as I was leaving the auditorium, call it a preconceived notion. What followed, has been a fortuitous encounter with Lei Xi, whose daughter is now a member of the Shen Yun Dance troupe, and Pingyi Noto, the VP of Shen Yun Promotions International.
Excerpts from Lei Xi’s involvement with Shen Yun:
It was through her daughter’s strong commitment to dance, that she was introduced to the SY company. She describes the message of this unusual performance company as a “crash course in Chinese culture” and one which has matriculated into her life and her innate love for its history. Her daughter studied dance from early childhood and was accepted at age 17, into Shen Yun’s world-wide touring troupe. Lei feels that she’s learned more about Chinese culture through her daughter’s involvement than from being born and raised in Shanghai.
Pingyi Noto has added more insight into the history linked with the company:
In 2006 in an effort to revive the divinely-inspired culture of China and before the Communist rule, a group of classical Chinese performers came together. Shen Yun first appeared in NYC in 2007 and in 2009, the company began touring the world.
In moving forward, she notes that like the Cultural Renaissance that took place in Florence in the 14th century giving hope and support in the dark ages, the same applies to Shen Yun, considered by many as a cultural renaissance, as well.
From a real estate perspective, and through my association with Sotheby’s, we have been inundated over the years with Chinese buyers and sellers eager to take advantage of the lucrative market from an investment point of view. In fact, several brokers in my firm have become experts in the Chinese market and make frequent trips overseas with their clients in an effort to understand real estate from another vantage point.
In conclusion and as previously mentioned, we are all overdue for an instant fix, a panacea to the daily news we are forced to endure. The climate of this country has become morose with mediocrity replacing high expectations, hope and promise for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. There must be a way for us to cleanse these feelings of despair.
My advice is to try to infuse entertainment, film, music, theatre into your daily lives. It certainly couldn’t hurt!
The following is a list of suggested “diversions”:
New York Wild Film Festival: Feb. 21-24 – The Explorers Club – 46 E. 70th; documentaries focusing on the natural world.
Athena Women’s Film Festival – Feb. 28 – March 3 – Barnard College; showcasing a selection of over 40 works by strong and courageous women.
Rendez-vous with French Cinema – Feb. 28 – March 10 – Lincoln Center Plaza; the best of contemporary French filmmaking from emerging new talent and established masters.
New Directors/New Film Festival – March 27 – April 7- MoMA and Lincoln Center – Celebrating its 48th season, the New Directors/ New Film Festival introduces local audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the globe.
Flamenco Festival – March 7 – 10th – NY City Center – 131 W. 55th – The 75th Annual Flamenco Festival features an all-star lineup of contemporary and legendary Flamenco dynasties.
The following interview appeared on NTD-TV in Milano following another spectacular Shen Yun performance. You can find it here.