An Honest Retelling of China’s Legacy

April 17, 2016 Updated: April 17, 2016

COSTA MESA, Calif.—Sally Beaudette describes herself as very much a “word person,” but though the much anticipated performance of Shen Yun Performing Arts she saw on April 16 had no words, she felt she absorbed the story of 5,000 years of Chinese civilization greatly— “and at a deep level,” she said.

Ms. Beaudette, who worked in broadcasting and on arts boards doing things like raising money to rebuild Shakespeare’s Globe in London, is a stalwart appreciator of the arts because it is something that brings the world’s people together. Seeing Shen Yun gave her just that feeling.

“I have an all-American, all-Chinese daughter-in-law who just had a brand new baby. I was thinking, this is all of her traditions and all of our traditions put together, that’s good for the world. It’s lovely,” she said. Her daughter in law’s father had been snuck out of communist China as a child, and she was raised in Ohio. Ms. Beaudette recounted an afternoon the father and daughter spent going over the names in their family tree, and how her new grandson came into the world at a global time.

In seeing New York-based Shen Yun’s artist tell China’s story, she wondered about other histories, and how the United States would tell its own story, because the way stories were told in Shen Yun stood out to her.

That memory, and the performance, had her thinking about traditions, and the need to keep them alive. “I think it’s really important,” she said. She could see the cultural DNA of the performers through the art on stage, there was truth the myths and legends of centuries ago told through dance.

“Myth is a way of getting to the truth, it really is,” she said.

“I think they’re doing that very honestly; myth and fact. It’s one of a kind,” she said. She recounted one very human story about faith, set in modern times, that she felt was so touching. “Truth with a capital ‘T’ and love won out. That’s a good message in any culture.”

“Sharing the myths of the culture and the actual history of the culture is vital so none of us forget that on this earth we share, the generations before us went through highs and lows and challenges, excesses,” she said. “If we only know our own time we only know last night’s broadcast or webcast, and that’s pretty short-sighted. That’ll be gone in a year. This won’t be gone. This has been around 5,000 years.””

The culture—and the scale of the performance—allowed her to see something she felt was profound.

“And it’s very spiritual,” she said. “Some things are deeper than words. Dance is one thing. Music is another. The grandness of this big backdrop that sets the scene, lifts it up to a mythic place and that’s where myth and spirit and everything lie. These are not little ideas, these are very big things.”

All of this was integrated, which was important, she said. It felt beautiful, not hurried, and served the audience well.

“I keep looking around and nobody’s lost, everybody’s very much with it,” she said. “It’s brought out so many different kinds of people which I think is wonderful.”

The performance, she said, was both “gentle and powerful,” and void of political tampering. “These are people’s stories, which is really a very human story,” she said.

It was the type of experience she said would linger with you.

“If you’re willing to stop and take a deep breath and say ‘I’m going to be present and in China for the next three hours,’ then I think it’s a wonderful experience. I don’t imagine anything could touch it,” Ms. Beaudette said.

“I think there’s hope coming at the end of this, as opposed to our history being lost forever. I think this production brings it back into relevance for today.”

Reporting by Sarah Le and Catherine Yang

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.