Millennia of Chinese Legends, Brought to Life through Dance

Shen Yun’s story-based dances will transport you to bygone dynasties and far-off places.

A daughter disguises herself as a son and takes her father’s place at war. A magical monkey, an ogre, and a humanoid pig protect a Buddhist monk as he journeys to the western heavens on a quest for true teachings. A folk hero gets drunk, but then saves a village from a vicious tiger. And the Lord Buddha asks the deities in heaven to come down to China and walk among the people, creating a civilization that would last 5,000 years.

If you were to break Chinese culture into its building blocks, you would find that it is made up of stories such as these. Some are beautiful fairy tales that draw from China’s vast spiritual culture. Others are moral parables interwoven with history itself.

To unlock the treasures of Chinese civilization, understanding the language is key; which, of course, can present something of a challenge for most of the world. Fortunately, though, there is one language that anyone can understand—the language of classical Chinese dance.

Much like China’s written language, classical Chinese dance was developed and refined over thousands of years. With a vast and independent system of movements, postures, and gestures, it has deep roots in traditional Chinese ideas about beauty and grace. It is also physically demanding, incorporating dramatic flips and tumbling techniques that share a common ancestry with martial arts. One final element is essential to classical Chinese dance—yun, which roughly translates as the spirit of the dance itself. 

But where can you find classical Chinese dance? At dance schools in Beijing or Shanghai? Perhaps in decades past, but today you need not venture so far afield. Classical Chinese dance is experiencing a global revival, and its new home is in New York.

With a name that roughly translates as “the beauty of divine beings dancing,” the New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts inevitably holds itself to a high standard. Bringing together dedicated artists from around the world, Shen Yun’s mission is to spur a renaissance of traditional Chinese civilization. The company exclusively showcases two types of dance: classical Chinese dance, and Chinese ethnic and folk dance, revitalizing the traditions of the Middle Kingdom’s many peoples. And every season, many of Shen Yun’s classical dances are dedicated to telling stories.

Shen Yun’s story-based dances form a thread that links past and present, transporting audiences to bygone dynasties and far-off places. The chronicle of the Chinese people is long and still unfolding. Through classical Chinese dance, it is a story the entire world can witness.

Shen Yun will perform at The Arts Centre Gold Coast 20 – 21 Jan with an all-new 2018 show. For tickets and show times visit

IMAGE (c) Shen Yun Performing Arts

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