Artists and Educators Laud Revival of Culture Through Shen Yun

January 9, 2014 Updated: November 17, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO—”Balance, harmony, and enlightenment” was how artists and educators Carol Smith, Marlene Van Vooren, and Jan Coleman-Knight summed up Shen Yun Performing Arts after finally seeing it for the first time at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, Jan. 8. 

The friends had seen advertisements for Shen Yun for years, and were finally able to make a performance Wednesday afternoon. Ms. Smith, as a watercolor painter, said she had come specifically to see the usage of color by New York-based Shen Yun, and was fully inspired.

“It was just mesmerizing,” Ms. Smith said. “Kind of ethereal.”

Watching the performance, Ms. Smith said she was trying to paint in her mind, trying to remember the colorful scenery of Shen Yun’s backdrops, brilliant costumes, and classical Chinese dance.

“Just the mannerisms of the dancers—just absolutely spectacular, beautiful,” Ms. Smith said. “The flow, the beautiful flow … flow is the word that comes to mind.”

Ms. Van Vooren, an art teacher of 37 years, had been deeply touched that Shen Yun was using art to revive a culture once almost lost.

Established in 2006, Shen Yun revives 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, which has been suppressed under the current regime in China.

“I just thought it was fabulous,” Ms. Van Vooren said.

The revival of culture was a greatly important to Ms. Coleman-Knight as well, who had during her career as an educator been instrumental in adding China to the curriculum in public schools. As one of the 19 professors under then-Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Ms. Coleman-Knight had worked hard to include Ancient China, Medieval China, and Modern China into the curriculum.

In 1998, Ms. Coleman-Knight had won the Society for American Archeology’s Award for Excellence in Public Education for redesigning the curriculum in California’s History-Social Science Framework. She also wrote the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute materials on medieval China and Japan.

“It’d be wonderful for kids to see [Shen Yun], because the artistry helps them understand,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said. 

Shen Yun had been informational beyond the artistry, Ms. Coleman-Knight said, such as explaining from which dynasties specific types of dress originated. 

The performing arts had also accomplished the difficult feat of telling what might be unfamiliar stories, Ms. Coleman-Knight added. In particular, the animated backdrops had opened up her imagination.

“The performance went on into the celestial heavens and came back again—beautiful idea, well done,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said. “It was used beautifully to tell legends and stories, because the stories don’t always translate on a graphic level, on a concrete level.”

Another item Ms. Coleman-Knight noticed throughout was the lotus blossom.

“The lotus was really important as a symbol, because that’s enlightenment, and you had that sense of balance and harmony, and enlightenment,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said.

The traditional culture Shen Yun is reviving left the friends with a joyful feeling.

“I’m just amazed at the quiet beauty,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said.

In history, Ms. Coleman-Knight said, what often happens is the oppressor erases the cultural history.

“For China, it’s incredibly important to preserve that,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said. 

“It’s really unfortunate that the communist government—they are the oppressor—they want to erase all this history so they can establish what the future is going to look like,” Ms. Coleman-Knight said. “And China has a very glorious history; it shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Reporting by 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

The 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.