NEW YORK—Seeing 5,000 years of Chinese culture and history brought to life on stage by Shen Yun Performing Arts was a fascinating experience for Phoebe Jensen.
Although she lectures on art at the Asia Society, Ms. Jensen said she still knows only a little about Asian and Chinese history and found the cultural and historical elements in Shen Yun very enjoyable.
“I found it fascinating because I am interested in Chinese history and so I like the idea … of bringing in some elements of traditional ancient Chinese culture and history,” she said after the performance at the Lincoln Center, Jan. 18.
She also appreciated the complexity of the dances and skill of the performers.
“I thought the training, the movements were spectacular and the precision of some of the dancers was amazing and everybody was in sync … They were very demanding, creative movements,” she said.
Based in New York, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive China’s 5,000-year-old culture through the performing arts. Performances are centered around classical Chinese dance but also include Chinese ethnic and folk dances.
Dance mini-dramas portray ancient legends and scenes from contemporary China.
The performance at Lincoln Center also featured a solo on the two-stringed erhu, a 4,000-year-old instrument known for its ability to express a wide range of emotions. This performance was very interesting for Ms. Jensen.
“I thought it was great. I loved to hear it,” she said.
Ms. Jensen said that Shen Yun is a “very colorful example” of China’s traditions, but that she understood that a performance of traditional culture like Shen Yun’s is not something that can be seen today in mainland China.
“It isn’t really coming out of China today because you can’t perform it in China,” she said.
The Shen Yun website explains that “over its past 60 years of rule, the communist regime has treated traditional Chinese values—centered on the idea of harmony between heaven and earth—as a threat to its existence. And in its systematic campaigns like the Cultural Revolution, it has uprooted traditional beliefs and destroyed ancient treasures—bringing traditional 5,000 years of civilization to the brink of extinction.”
Message of Compassion
Besides enjoying the music and dance, Ms. Jensen also took away a message of compassion and caring from the dances set in modern China. Two pieces in the performance depict the courage of practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong, in the face of persecution by the Chinese Communist Party.
“The main message of the Falun Gong [dances] is compassion and caring for your fellow human being, and sympathy and treating your fellow human beings well. No violence, no physical abuse of people,” she said.
In the dance piece, The Power of Compassion, which is based on true events, Falun Gong meditators are suddenly attacked by communist police and severely beaten.
But when an officer hurts his knee during the attack, the Falun Gong practitioners stop trying to flee and help the officer. Moved by their compassion, the officer comes to regret his actions, leading to an unexpected blessing.
Because of all this, Ms. Jensen would wholeheartedly recommend the performance to friends: “I would recommend it. It’s a very wonderful show.”
“I just thought it was beautifully done,” she said.
Reporting by Shannon Liao and Valentin Schmid
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.