Eight years ago, a group of expatriate Chinese performers and visual artists formed Shen Yun in New York. The group's goal, according to its website, is "to revive the true, divinely inspired culture of China and share it with the world."
Ever since, their shows -- spectacles of music, dance and animation, all steeped in the traditions of Chinese art forms -- have been delighting audiences around the world.
Shen Yun is coming to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for two shows, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Almost no one who has seen Shen Yun has come away unimpressed with its dance, its pageantry and its visual sumptuousness. The dancers offer both Chinese classical dance and ethnic folk dances, performed to a live orchestra that combines traditional Chinese instruments and vocalists with a Western symphony orchestra. The costumes are rich and colorful, and the dances are performed against an animated backdrop.
Some audiences and critics have objected to a political undercurrent in the show's narration. Those objections have come such diverse observers as the communist Chinese government and from right-wing columnists in the United States.
But the political content in the group's show is, by most accounts, subtle, so it's the celebration of the arts of old China that leaves the lasting impression.
Details: April 22-23, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets: $55-$205. Information: 941-953-3368, www.vanwezel.org.
-- Marty Clear