SAN JOSE, Calif.—Author Stephen Houser and his daughter have watched Shen Yun Performing Arts for three years. They love returning each year, Houser said, because they are inspired by the uniqueness of the production.
“It’s miraculous. And there’s nothing like it anywhere,” Houser said at Center for Performing Arts in San Jose, California on Dec. 19.
Shen Yun is the premier classical Chinese dance company, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. The New York-based company has been touring the world since 2006.
Movement and Music
Houser said he has seen ballet all over Europe and America, but Shen Yun’s dances are uniquely amazing. He was inspired by the beauty, color and movement of dancers on stage. The orchestra, which combines both Chinese and Western instruments, performs original pieces that feature distinct sounds from both styles of music.
Houser, who has published five fiction books, said he was an enthusiast of Chinese music and opera, and thus appreciated the unusual blend of musical styles played by the live orchestra.
“[T]he sweep of this, which is Chinese music with a classical European or symphony feeling, it’s very wonderful,” he said.
But for Houser, the most impactful part of the performance is its unique theme—something not often shown in American culture.
“[T]he theme underlying all of this is the divinity in every person and with proper living, that divinity may be taken back home to heaven,” Houser said.
“That’s a very powerful, unusual theme … it’s very different to most things we see here.”
At the heart of traditional Chinese culture is the belief in heaven or the divine. China itself was once known as Shen Zhou, or the Divine Land. Traditional teachings emphasized the elevation of a person’s character, so as to align closer with the principles of heaven. Such values and ideals are embedded within the stories that Shen Yun depicts on stage, an embodiment of the wisdom from the 5,000-year civilization.
The author said he was particularly moved after seeing the stories depicting the current persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China.
“I’m not a person who cries, but there are a couple of times I had tears in my eyes watching the young disciples being beat up,” he said.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice with teachings deeply rooted in Chinese culture, and centered around the principles: Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance. After being made public in China in 1992, the practice quickly spread throughout China with 70 million people practicing within seven years. Threatened by its popularity, the Chinese Communist Party banned the practice in 1999, launching a severe persecution against practitioners that still persists to this day.
Houser said he has read about the persecution in China and thinks that America should do more to help the situation.
Yet the performance ended on a note of hope for him, with a finale that was completely unexpected.
Without giving away too much, Houser said it was “nice to see the creativity and the love and the forgiveness comes out.”
“It was a truly wonderful thing to watch. And I loved it,” he said.
“It’s very powerful.”
Dancing for an Ideal
Houser was also impressed by the commitment he saw in the dancers on stage.
“[I] am inspired by the … dedication of these young people to an ideal that is much more than an iPhone, like we saw on stage,” he said referring to a scene in a particular story.
He added that this was not something people normally saw in performances.
“It’s miraculous. And there’s nothing like it anywhere,” he said.
Classical Chinese dance emphasizes the cultivation of “bearing” or inner feeling that is displayed in outward expression. Through bearing, a dancer strives to share their inner world with the audience, something unique to this art form.
Houser said he would like to see children exposed to the color, movement, and beliefs portrayed in the performance.
“It’s so much more than watching a television cartoon for a kid,” he said.
He highly recommended the performance to people from all walks of life.
“I think any age, any person would come here would feel the value and the beauty of it.”
With reporting by Yu Li and Cathy He.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.