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Shaolin Warriors: A stunning showcase of martial arts

A+Shaolin+Warrior+warms+up+for+the+performance.
A Shaolin Warrior warms up for the performance.

A Shaolin Warrior warms up for the performance.

Lily Kime (‘19) | Chips

Lily Kime (‘19) | Chips

A Shaolin Warrior warms up for the performance.

Lily Kime, Staff Writer

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The Shaolin Warriors, a touring martial arts group from China, performed in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) on March 11. They performed their show “The Legend Continues” to a crowd of about 500 Luther students, faculty, staff, and Decorah community members. The performance was a part of the Center Stage Series.

According to Deng Youfeng, a member of the Shaolin Warriors since 2009, the group originally formed in 1998 when the founders of the group decided that they wanted to share the traditional style of martial arts with people around the globe. Some of the group’s origianl members have left the group, and new members have joined, but the group typically maintains a membership of roughly 20 warriors.

This performance featured a wide variety of talent from the Shaolin Warriors. Through choreography the performers displayed feats of flexibility and strength; one performer lifted a fellow performer over his head in a scene where they grappled for a drinking jug.

The performers displayed their skills in solo routines and in mock battle scenes. The performance also showcased a variety of weapons and props, including swords, fans, staffs, three-sectioned staffs, and kwan daos.

The three-sectioned staff is a type of flail weapon. It consists of three sections of staffs made of either wood or metal. They are connected with rope or metal rings.

The kwan daos is a Chinese sword used for slashing movements. It only has a single edge.

During the show there were opportunities for audience participation. In the first half the performers invited 16 young audience members to come onstage and imitate the motions the master showed them, which gradually became faster. During the second half, the warriors invited two men onstage to imitate a fight as it was mimed by two masters.

All of the performances individual scenes worked together to tell the story of the lives of two young apprentices as they transitioned from the beginning of their training to mastery under monks’ guidance. The performers that played the characters of the apprentices were the youngest members of the group at eight and 12 years old.

As a featured show in the Center Stage Series, the Shaolin Warriors were chosen as a part of a diverse selection of productions this semester. Director of Campus Programming Paul Atkins sees the Center Stage Series as an opportunity to provide a variety of entertainment to Luther students, faculty, and Decorah community members that they may not have the opportunity to see elsewhere.

“The Center Stage Series seems to work best when it features a variety of performers,” Atkins said. “We will have some music — which may be classical or not, some dance — which may be modern or something more like ballet, and theatrical shows as well.”

Lily Kime (‘19) | Chips
A Shaolin Warrior practices choreography in rehearsal before the show.

Attendee Genevieve Ehlers (‘19) thought the performance was new and different from most on-campus events.

“I really enjoyed [the Shaolin Warriors],” Ehlers said. “I feel that it was really important for them to come to Luther and [bring] diversity for our school.”

According to Deng, the skills that the Shaolin Warriors presented within their performance contributes to the message the performers wish to send. They want the audience to experience the beauty of martial arts and appreciate the story they tell through their movements and the music.

Attendee Alex Lau (‘19) said that the music quickly changed from soothing and slow, to intense and exciting. The colorful theatrical lights and death-defying actions captured his attention and introduced him to a different tradition.

“I really liked the newness of it because I’ve never seen something like this before,” Lau said. “Getting to witness this piece of culture was really great.”

The next performance in the Center Stage Series is The Bad Plus, a three-piece music group. This group will be performing on April 7 in the CFL. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket office in the CFL or on the Luther ticket office website.

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