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WHAT DO THE FEMALE warrior Mulan, the eccentric monk Jigong, and the mischievous Monkey King have in common?

They are some of the best-known characters of Chinese legends, bringing joy and inspiration to generations of children and adults alike. But that's not all. Since 2006, they have been brought to life again--this time on stage--by Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world's premier Chinese music and dance company.

In the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the Monkey King is one of four magical creatures that escort a Buddhist monk on a sacred pilgrimage to what is today called India. Along the way, the ragtag travelers have to summon everything in their power to fend off attacks, traps, and temptations to complete their historic mission. Over the past six seasons, Shen Yun Performing Arts has brought many of the Monkey King's adventures to the stage. And Journey to the West is just one of the literary and cultural pearls that Shen Yun draws upon in its production. In fact, the show draws its material from 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, and presents audiences around the world with the highlights.

Now, the Monkey King and others legendary Chinese heroes will be coming back to Florida in January 2013 after sold-out shows in March-May in the Tampa Bay area, for a celebration of traditional Chinese culture as it was meant to be experienced.

With mesmerizing choreography, music, and animated backdrops, Shen Yun takes the audience on a journey through time and space to ancient lands, mountain peaks, and even heavenly paradises. Age-old stories come to life to celebrate compassionate, courageous, and even quirky characters.

In a program of some 20 masterful dances and songs, the show moves quickly from one story, region, and dynasty to the next. It is a glimpse into a long-lost world that exists nowhere else--a world of grace, wisdom, and virtues distilled from millennia of civilization and reverence for the divine. Watching a Shen Yun performance, it's easy to understand why China was once known as the Celestial Empire.

"It was an extraordinary experience for us and the children," said Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett after seeing Shen Yun. "The level of skill, but also the power of the archetypes and the narratives were startling" Based in New York, Shen Yun presents the true Chinese cultural heritage that thrived before decades of destruction under communism in China. Drawing its rich repertory of dances from the pages of history and universal themes that everyone can relate to, Shen Yun's all-original performances not only entertain, but more deeply enrich, and inspire.

Shen Yun does this through the rich tradition of Chinese dance, including classical, ethnic, and folk dance styles--all art forms still barely known in the West. Dancers fly across the stage in an array of flips, spins, jumps, and aerials. An orchestra, combining Western and Chinese instruments like no other, accompanies their every move with stirring scores. The energy of classical Chinese dance is contagious.

And, like the Monkey King, the entire performance is magical.

"A beautiful show ... fantastic!" said Joy Behar from ABC's The View after seeing Shen Yun perform in New York. "If you ever get a chance to see it, you should."

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Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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