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.
When Shen Yun arrives at Lincoln Center in January for a ten-show run, its newest innovations will be on full display. Alongside its talent-laden cast of dancers and musicians, Shen Yun’s ingenious animated backdrops continue to leave the entertainment industry astounded.
“It’s like 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, I think I may have found some new ideas for the next Avatar.”
What Shen Yun’s projection designs do is seamlessly synchronize all aspects of the performance. The costumes’ colors, specific dance steps, drums, lighting, and 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 to his enemies. As the enchanting scene continues, the Monkey King pulls the moon down from the sky onto the stage.
In several other dances, celestial fairies and divine beings descend to earth, magically transitioning on stage from digital backdrop figures into flesh and blood. The effect is like a beautiful painting coming to life.
“It starts off very simple,” said Mike Hogue, who animated movies such as Titan A.E. and Anastasia. “Then when you all of a sudden have these surprises of people coming out of the screen, it’s just, ‘Oh my gosh, O.K., this is something really different, really innovative.’”