PHILADELPHIA—At Philadelphia’s Merriam Theater, soaring scenes from China’s 5,000-year history expressed through dance unfolded before the audience’s eyes, offering them a glimpse of a culture said to be divinely-inspired.
For Pat Anderson, director of a charitable trust, Shen Yun Performing Arts’s rendering of Chinese civilization was a “once in a lifetime experience.”
“Of course you want to do it more than once,” Anderson added, “but it is a once in a lifetime experience and absolutely beautiful.”
With a program that features around 20 classical Chinese vignettes, dance-based stories, and vocal soloists, Shen Yun seeks to portray the essence of traditional Chinese culture to a modern audience.
Anderson, who is director of Crystal Trust Foundation, attended the performance with her husband John, a retired business manager, on Feb. 27.
She applauded the artistry of the production, saying the colors and costumes seen on the dancers were stunning. The use of the 3-D backdrop to transport audiences to distant times and places was also inspired, said Anderson.
But most of all, it was the messages contained in the stories that touched Anderson.
“I loved the story that we’re all really the same,” she said.
“All people, we’re really the same. They have this innate ability to believe in God.”
Many of the stories presented by Shen Yun touch upon the deep spirituality embedded within traditional Chinese culture. For thousands of years, teachings from Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism permeated the thinking and way of life of Chinese people.
Chinese people believed in living virtuous lives, observing principles such as righteousness, benevolence, justice, and loyalty. Such practices persisted uninterrupted until the Cultural Revolution, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sought to systematically destroy China’s religions, traditions, and values, and replace it with atheistic party dogma.
Richard Riviello, a retired VP at a metal fabrication company, said he was unaware that Shen Yun is not able to perform in China.
He thought it was amazing that the company has been able to flourish despite being targeted by the communist regime for depicting the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in its program. Falun Gong is a spiritual discipline that was banned by the CCP in 1999 after it deemed the practice’s popularity a threat to its control—by the late 1990s, the number Falun Gong practitioners outnumbered communist party members by many times.
Ron Brunar, a retired physicist from Rowan University, said watching some of the programs also made him reflect about China’s recent history.
“Sometimes we don’t stop and think about the way Chinese communists took over and changed the country so much,” Brunar said.
“But it’s good to be reminded of that.”
With reporting by Lily Sun.
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.