WASHINGTON—We have the arts to marvel in beauty. We have the arts to entertain us. We have the arts to help us reflect on a higher purpose. And we have the arts to help us learn.
Shen Yun Performing Arts’s opening night performance at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Feb. 16 included all of the above. Finance student Emerald Pollard thought it was “spectacular, I was beyond ecstatic with everything.”
On her third time watching New York-based Shen Yun, she brought along her boyfriend Kevin Green, an aspiring actor. For him, it was a deep learning experience.
“It’s interesting to see the history and culture through a performance,” he said.
Each of the Shen Yun’s individual songs or dances highlights some cherished value of traditional Chinese culture—compassion, loyalty, kindness or bravery—often by telling a story, sometimes through the singing of award-winning vocalists.
In the story “A Steadfast Heart,” these traditional values are demonstrated in the present day. The beliefs of an elderly couple helps them to overcome persecution in China, with divine help.
“[Falun Dafa] was a traditional religion and spiritual practice that was suppressed by the communist party in an attempt to maintain control, even though it really is just a practice of compassion and caring,” Mr. Green explained.
Founded in 1992, Falun Dafa is a spiritual meditation practice that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. But since 1999, the communist regime has been brutally persecuting the practice. Millions of Falun Dafa practitioners have been arrested, illegally detained, tortured, and even killed for their organs.
Mr. Green explained that this was because the totalitarian regime would fear a group that had so many members. In less than a decade since its inception, the number of people practicing Falun Dafa swelled to over 70 million mainly through just word of mouth.
Mr. Green appreciated the spiritual element of the traditional culture in the performance, bringing the East and the West together.
“I think that at the core of most cultures, everyone’s goal is to get along and treat others in a way that they believe is good,” he said. “They want to treat each other well. I think that we’re really not all that different and this shows that very well.”
Miss Pollard added that this performance showed family values. She got the sense of people coming together and supporting each other in their beliefs, even when those beliefs are attacked.
For thousands of years, the Chinese called their country the “Divine Land” (Shen Zhou) and the teachings of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism were the heart of the culture. It was believed that the arts were given to humankind as a way to bring some of the divine to earth.
New York-based Shen Yun seeks to revive the sense of divine inspiration through classical Chinese dance and music, after systematic political campaigns like the Cultural Revolution almost destroyed the traditional culture in China.
“I spent many many, many years going to different religions. I’ve been to services at synagogues, I’ve been to services at mosques, I’ve been to services at Christian churches because I wanted to learn,” said Mr. Green. “At the end of the day, the goal is the same.”
“Everyone’s goal is to get along and treat others in a way that they believe is, for lack of a better term, good,” he said. And the performance was a prime example.
Reporting by Valentin Schmid
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.