Digital backdrop merges with traditional enchantment

Shen Yun Performing Arts returns to New Zealand

There are rare moments in history when a show, a book, or a piece of art takes its viewer to a whole new realm.  

Boundaries previously thought unmovable, like those between the stage and the backdrop, are erased and reinvented, never to be the same.

Watching Shen Yun Performing Arts is witnessing just such a moment.

As Shen Yun arrives at the Aotea Centre for performances from February 12 to 14, 2015, its newest innovations will be on full display.

For alongside its talent-laden cast of dancers and musicians, Shen Yun’s ingenious animated backdrops are leaving the entertainment industry astounded.

“Going to the theater and the movies at the same time,” is how Robert Stromberg, Academy Award-winning production designer for Avatar, described it.

“It was so inspiring that I think I may have found some new ideas for the next Avatar.”

Great synergy

What Shen Yun’s projection designs do is seamlessly synchronize all aspects of the performance. The costumes’ colors, specific dance movements, drums, lighting, particular notes played by the orchestra are all timed with animated movements on an enormous digital backdrop.

In one dance, the Monkey King, a sort of Buddhist superhero from ancient China, soars through the air with exquisite dexterity, gracefully delivering kicks and twirls of his staff to his enemies. As the enchanting scene continues, the Monkey King literally pulls the moon down from the sky onto the stage.       

Celestial Fairies

In several other dances, celestial fairies and divine beings descend to Earth, magically transitioning from digital backdrop figures into flesh and blood on stage. The effect is like a beautiful painting coming to life.

“It starts off very simple,” said Mike Hogue, who animated movies from Titan AE to Anastasia and television shows like George of the Jungle.

“As these people come out of the screen, you would feel the difference and appreciate the innovative spirit of the production.

Epic Journey

Digital backdrop merges- Elegance in the RainChina is one of the world’s most ancient civilisations, at about 5000 years.

Its rich dynastic history, majestic landscapes, and diverse ethnic groups become destinations on Shen Yun’s epic journey through time and space.

The backdrop takes you there, from the snowcapped Himalayan peaks to the subtropical forests of Southwest China; from the tranquil Yangtze River Delta to the flaming beacon towers along the winding Great Wall; and from the boundless Mongolian grasslands to heavenly scenes of gods and deities.

Scholarly discourse

Gurinder Chadha, Director of ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ summed it up by saying, “It showed that there is a deep spiritual side to Chinese culture and Chinese belief that we don’t often hear about. What I think this show really has is a great spiritual core.”

As with all aspects of the Shen Yun production, there is a superior level of attention paid to authenticity. A scholarly discourse on the company’s website reflects on the details of the landscapes in the backdrops.

“The gardens of Jiangnan are exquisite and enchanting, giving the feeling of meditative seclusion. Indeed, it is a place historically renowned as a cultural and literary center,” it reads. “And yet the winding river with small houses along the banks, seeming to emerge from an ink-wash painting, creates a charming picture of simple, bucolic river life.”

This accuracy stood out to Avatar’s Stromberg, who studied Chinese landscapes.

“Seeing a traditional performance with the authentic dance moves and authentic backgrounds, it all came together,” he said.

Mesmerising effect

And the effect is mesmerising.

As Shen Yun’s website says: “Here, one can get lost in thought. Here, time slows down. Why would you ever want to leave?” Indeed, why would one want to leave this incredible performance? Only because the usher tells you that the show is over, and he needs to turn off the lights.”

Shen Yun Performing Arts will be at Aotea Centre, Auckland from February 12 to 14, 2015 Tickets at:

Photo :

  1. Modern technology in ancient civilisation
  2. Elegance in the Rain

Pictures Courtesy: © 2014 Shen Yun Performing Arts.

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