PHOENIX—Shen Yun Performing Arts brings classical Chinese dance to over 100 cities around the world each year, but according to many audience members and fans, the group of artists brings much more than what their posters and billboard advertise.
Tanya FuQua-Abbas runs a pet care business with her mother and sister and came to see New York-based Shen Yun for the first time on March 4, 2020, at the Phoenix Orpheum.
“It was amazing, it was absolutely breathtaking. Watching their feet move as fast as they could, it was unbelievable. I need to come multiple times, so I can see every part of it,” FuQua-Abbas said.
Classical Chinese dance lies at the heart of what Shen Yun is all about and forms the foundation upon which the arts company is reviving traditional Chinese culture. According to Shen Yun’s website, “China’s deep cultural traditions are contained in classical Chinese dance, allowing its movements to be richly expressive, such that the personalities and feelings of characters can be portrayed with unparalleled clarity. … Over thousands of years, it was constantly refined, eventually developing into the vast and distinctly Chinese dance form we know today.“
“It was beautiful,” FuQua-Abbas continued. “[The dancers,] they float. I cried and I laughed and I cheered. Their movements, you could hear, and see, and understand just by just way they were moving together in unison. And the little king and the battles were amazing. I loved the stories.”
Some of Shen Yun’s storytelling dances depict ancient legends and heavenly beliefs that have been passed down since time immemorial in China. Other pieces portray modern-day China where followers of one of the country’s ancient spiritual practices are now persecuted at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Overall, Shen Yun’s roughly 20 vignettes present different aspects of authentic Chinese culture which was almost lost when the CCP rose to power in the mid-twentieth century.
“The message was very powerful,” the Arizona business owner said about the lyrics of the song “Persecuted for Your Redemption” sung by Shen Yun’s baritone, Qu Yue. “You don’t realize just how much battle there is still going on for being able to express yourself [in China] the way that we express ourselves [in the US]. So getting to hear that and see it, the way you could see [the baritone’s] heart was really in it. It was amazing. It’s definitely a profound event for all of us. I really appreciated getting to come.”
Shen Yun combines Eastern and Western instruments in a way no other arts company has to create a sound that is richly expressive of China’s sounds and melodies, but with an overall sound quality familiar to Western ears.
“I would like to pick up the soundtrack before I leave,” FuQua-Abbas said. “Getting to listen to the different elements of it and the way they introduced the Chinese aspects of it to us, I had never heard of a two-string instrument and my son loves to play violin, so, he’s definitely going to want to see that instrument.”
Soloist Lu Sun played the erhu, which is the two-stringed instrument that so excited FuQua-Abbas. Lu played a piece titled “Roaming Without a Care.”
The baritone, the erhu player, and all of the artists in Shen Yun are carrying on China’s ancient tradition of acknowledging the legend of the Creator and His eventual return to earth in their songs, dances, and even in their personal spiritual practice in their daily lives.
To FuQua-Abbas, this was a touching and memorable part of her Shen Yun experience, and one she feels everyone can share.
“I think that for every person, that Creator is something different. And in this, I felt it was everything. It didn’t matter what belief you had … what you thought of each person. The way they brought through, they brought it in, and it made the Creator feel like everything—’It’ is ‘All!’ And it was amazing, I loved it,” she said.
Even the name “Shen Yun” translates to “the beauty of divine beings dancing” in English. FuQua-Abbas thought that the name was apt and had generous parting words for the artists.
“Oh, it came through beautifully, absolutely beautifully. I recommend that for anybody,” she said in reference to the translation of the phrase “Shen Yun.”
“Thank you! Thank you for sharing what you guys do with us,” she said to the artists. “Because that was emotional. And I, I can’t thank them enough, they’re beautiful.”
With reporting by NTD Television and Brett Featherstone.
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.