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Shen Yun to dance into Columbus with Chinese culture

Chinese dancers will bring 5,000 years of Chinese culture to central Ohio this weekend.
The New York-based Shen Yun dance troupe is scheduled to perform classical Chinese music and dance Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the Ohio Theatre.
This is the troupe’s fourth visit to central Ohio, but the show has a different flavor each time, said Lucia Dunn, adviser for the Falun Dafa Practice Group at Ohio State.
“They have a new show every year,” Dunn said. “We’re very lucky to have them, they’re in great demand.”
According to the group’s mission statement, Falun Dafa originates from Buddhism, as a mental and physical practice that aims to promote overall wellness through meditation, exercises and more. The group is sponsoring the event.
Dunn, an economics professor at OSU, said after learning more about the practice, she was interested in helping the student group promote it.
“The ancient Chinese dances are very special,” she said. “All of us can benefit from stories they illustrate. (They) are beautiful, uplifting.”
The stories told in the event start at the age of Yellow Emperor, sweep through the Tang and Song Dynasties to the present, according to Shen Yun’s website.
Some famous stories in the production include: Lady Mu Guiying Commands the Troops, where a female heroine commands troops and saves the Song dynasty from conquer, and “Mulan Joins the Battle,” a story of a girl from the Northern and Southern dynasties who disguises herself as a man to save her aging father from fighting in war.
The Monkey King is a cultural legend referenced throughout the production. “How the Monkey King Came to Be” tells of a mischievous monkey who uses magical powers to battle monsters, demons and save monks, according to the Shen Yun website.
Compared to western forms of dance, Chinese dance takes its influence from cultural history and garments.
“One of the things that tends to happen … is a lot of Chinese dances are traditionally cultural, the dance comes from stories,” said Dori Jenks, alumna and administrative staff member for the Department of Dance. “Costumes are a really big thing.”
According to a press release, 400 handmade costumes are used in the production. The clothing changes as the show progresses through various dynasties.
The dance company is comprised of about 300 artists, according to its website.
Jenks had the opportunity to be involved in Chinese dancing, in which she said uniformity is heavily emphasized, in her career.
“It has a lot of unison, a lot of repetitive steps,” she said. “It’s very intricate, (especially) the hand and arm gestures.”
According to the Shen Yun website, bearing and form are important components to classical Chinese dance. They are expressive movements, incorporating acrobatic and gymnastic qualities to convey human nature and moral conduct. Another important element is technical skill, which includes tumbling and fundamental concepts in dance.
The orchestra uses Western and Eastern styles of music. The Eastern instruments include a bamboo flute, gong (drum), an ehru (Chinese violin) and more, and the Western instruments include strings, percussion, woodwinds, and brass, according to a press release.
Despite the popularity of the event, one student said she barely noticed it on campus.
“I only heard about it through a friend,” said Sarah Balster, a third-year in biology who is enrolled in a contemporary dance class for non-majors. She said she didn’t see advertising on campus.
Regardless, Dunn said there is a big interest in Chinese performing arts in central Ohio, at least by ticket sales.
“Last year, (The Ohio Union’s) discount tickets sold out in a half an hour,” she said.
The event is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster from $53 to $123. The Ohio Theatre is located at 39 E. State St.

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