PHOENIX–Joe Smyth is the chairman of Independent Newsmedia Inc. USA, a publishing company which has been publishing newspapers since the 1950s, providing printing services to other publishers, and creating citizen-driven community websites.
Inspired by the First Amendment, Mr. Smyth wanted the company to remain independent and dedicated to the practice of journalism as a public trust. He was willing to lose his ownership, and transferred 100 percent of his ownership to form the INI Holdings, a non-stock, non-profit holding company in 1991.
On beautiful afternoon of Sunday, April 3, Mr. Smyth found himself inspired by the story of 5,000 years of Chinese culture after watching the first half of Shen Yun’s performance at the Orpheum Theater. “It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous,” he said during intermission. “I was aware of a lot of the general history, but this is just a beautiful way of presenting it all.”
Mr. Smyth referred specifically to two vignettes, “Monks and the Red Guards” and “The Steadfast Heart” which depict the communist regime’s persecution of spiritual believers in China who, ultimately, triumph through their peaceful faith.
Per Shen Yun’s website, traditional Chinese culture is rooted in spirituality. Chinese society was deeply influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, but the Chinese Communist Party has attempted to systematically eradicate China’s old culture and force atheism upon the people.
In 2006, a group of distinguished classical Chinese artists from around the world founded the independent, non-profit Shen Yun Performing Arts in New York with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture through music and story-telling dance.
A Shen Yun performance includes 20 vignettes accompanied by a live orchestra that transport the audience members on a journey through China’s culture and beliefs, where myths and legends come to life, and virtues such as bravery, compassion, kindness, loyalty, and perseverance are personified.
Shen Yun’s orchestra, which includes both Chinese and Western instruments for a unique sound, delighted him. “I’m glad we’re [sitting] up here so we can actually see the orchestra performing,” he said.
Mr. Smyth expressed his appreciation to the two bilingual hosts, who open the gates of understanding for the audience into each wondrous realm, story, or myth.
Before returning to see the second part of Shen Yun’s performance, Mr. Smyth said, “I would recommend it as a beautiful experience and a great story of faith versus force.”
Debbie Gonzales drove three and a half hours to attend Shen Yun Performance Arts at the Orpheum Theater on April 3. She said her Shen Yun ticket was an early birthday present from her mother.
It was Ms. Gonzales’ first time seeing Shen Yun, but clearly was not her last. “I will be a year older the next time I’m here,” she said.
Ms. Gonzales began her professional career as a nurse, then a registered nurse, and she went back to school and got a master degree in rehabilitation counseling. She is now a retiree who enjoys raising her grandchildren.
Ms. Gonzales was impressed by the performance. “It was beautiful. It was very rich, and inspiring,” she said. She was moved by the passion of Shen Yun’s dancers conveyed through dance.
The artists perform classical Chinese dance. According to the website, the form is “grounded in 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture, and is a dance art form built upon a deep foundation of traditional aesthetics.” The unique form and method allows the movements to “bring out the inner meaning of intrinsic thoughts and feelings, reflecting the peculiarities of human nature, the standard for human conduct, moral concepts, mental state, one’s value system, and so on.”
“[It] is wonderful to see all these art forms are coming together, are being preserved, because clearly we know that this can’t be seen by the very country that it’s from,” Ms. Gonzales said.
“I felt [traditional Chinese culture] was very important, sort of like a hidden treasure, [and] that this is being kept alive so that when things are better in China, it’s not lost. [Shen Yun] will be able to take that back to the homeland,” she said.
“I’m very moved by that, [and] knowing that…[Shen Yun] was keeping these performing living arts alive, and vibrant and relevant. I think things will change for China eventually, and these beautiful treasures, cultural heritage will still be alive and well.”
Seeing the oppression in China depicted in the performance, Ms. Gonzales said, “The freedom that we have here we take for granted, so we need to work a little bit harder to help each other.”
Ms. Gonzales was deeply moved by the messages perceived from Shen Yun’s performance.
“It inspires hope. It encourages you to strive to be better as a person, to help each other, to work together, to protect those who can’t protect themselves. That, I thought, was a really strong message, and the overarching concept of hope and keeping your faith alive, even in the darkest of times when the world is going to hell. So I can imagine these kinds of messages are going to be very important when Chinese in China are able to pick that up. And I have many Chinese American friends who are first generation, and they struggle with the distance from their loved ones back in their home land. That means a lot to me. But they have that connection. So I think it’s good to encourage and inspire hope,” she said.
As she was leaving, Ms. Gonzales said, “See you next year. We’ll bring more [people].”
Reporting by Marie-Paul Baxiu and Thanh Le
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.