The past weekend, we took my parents to see the last showing of Shen Yun in San Francisco for the year. It was a spectacular performance of classical Chinese dance and minimal singing which was perfect because I don’t care for Chinese opera. I made the misinformed mistake of thinking the show was just comprised of acrobatic techniques when it really combines many forms and movements. I bought the tickets without reading much or knowing anything about the show. It just looked like a fun, cultural show to experience with my parents.
After my purchase, I was a little worried when the reviews we read were a bit negative. Many thought that the show had too many religious undertones but having seen it now, Shen Yun was no different than having Christmas as the back story of The Nutcracker or the Christmas Carol. Falun Dafa and Buddhism are present but it was in no way preaching or by any means religious propaganda. Maybe it was in the past but the 2015 show wasn’t like that.
I loved the show. There was both dancing and singing in colorful costumes. Each dance story is explained to you in both English and Mandarin and when the Sopranos sing, the words are translated behind the performer in a very tasteful fashion. I liked the way they handled the teleprompter much better than when I went to the opera. The choreography and incorporation of the entire stage was amazing. I don’t want to give too much away but they have awesome special effects for the flying scenes. I felt like I was watching the old kung fu movies I grew up with and loved. Plus, there was an impressive 90 member orchestra that played unbelievably well. I’m sure the performers all had Tiger Moms.
The show was about 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. The War Memorial Opera House has a ton of restroom stalls on the first floor. When I say tons, I truly mean it was like a maze in the women’s restroom with many sections of stalls. The dress circle floor has restrooms too but they are separated in pairs of toilets so everyone in line can hear you do your business. Another negative is the seats in the place are really tight where your knees bump up against the seat in front of you. My husband who’s 6 feet tall and 210 lbs was snug as was my 5′ 5″ chubby dad. I sat in between them and sometimes felt their knees brush up on my leg. We sat in the dress circle which are the lower end seats with a great view costing $85 each. There were kids in our section and they seemed to enjoy the show so the show is good for boys and girls by the way. The side balcony had more room but they cost $200 each. Tickets range from $60 to $280.
Some people see The Nutcracker year after year as a holiday tradition and it is the same performance each year as the story and scenes never change. Shen Yun performances are supposedly different each year so I wouldn’t mind adding this show as a tradition for my family. It was also nice to see my parents enjoy a show in the War Memorial Opera House. My dad said that he had only made deliveries to the place in his previous career and he’d never actually been in one of the rooms. He smiled while taking in the ornate decor. That smile made me happy.