ST. PAUL, Minnesota—The synergy of the dancers was what impressed County Commissioner Jim McDonough when he experienced Shen Yun Performing Arts. Whether it was two dancers on stage or 12, McDonough said they were all able to dance with perfect unison as though they were all connected by invisible glue.
“Every movement was the same … they all just move in unison. It’s pretty amazing, that takes a lot of work,” he said. “First time I’m seeing this, and it’s beyond all my expectations.”
McDonough and his wife Carol saw the evening performance at the St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts on Feb. 15. New York-based Shen Yun showcases China’s 5,000 years of semi-divine culture that was lost after seven decades of communist rule.
The Ramsey County commissioner is currently serving the St. Paul neighborhoods of Upper East Side, Payne-Phalen, and Conway-Battle Creek. He also previously served as the chair of the Board of Commissioners from 2014 to 2016, and before that as chair of the Regional Rail Authority from 2008.
The couple was amazed that Shen Yun is able to preserve the centuries-old history and culture and bring it to the world on stage even after the Chinese communist regime tried to eradicate the traditional culture during the Cultural Revolution.
“I think it was amazing because in 1949 when the great changes [happened] there, the communist party really tried to eliminate all—centuries of history, beauty, and … [to] be able to find a way to still survive—a lot of credit to a lot of people for that,” McDonough said.
The aim of the Cultural Revolution, which occurred between 1966 and 1976, was an unprecedented move to systematically eradicate traditional culture and replace it with Mao Zedong’s way of thinking and style of discourse, as Shen Yun also explains on its website. Mao’s campaign has been catastrophic for China’s traditional culture.
Even now, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees traditional Chinese culture, which is deeply rooted in Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, as its greatest rival.
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive this traditional culture and bring back the values and beliefs that the ancient people once held with high regard. And the company has been quite successful with its endeavor, expanding from one company to six equally sized companies that tour the world simultaneously to perform hundreds of sold-out shows.
‘Heart and Mind’
The McDonoughs praised the dancers for their discipline and cooperation that are depicted in how the dancers perform and interact on stage.
“Heart and mind,” Jim McDonough said. “Those young artists follow the principle so they can reach a certain level.”
Many of the performers practice the spiritual discipline Falun Dafa. It involves meditation exercises and a set of teachings centered around three principles: Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance. As part of their practice, performers strive for self-betterment and ensure that they take responsibility, and put others first in everything they do, according to the company’s website.
Having this spiritual connection motivates the performers to strive to excel and deliver a unique performance that captivates audience members and encourage them to reflect on their own lives and the modern world.
This is because many of Shen Yun pieces reflect this spirituality that was a foundation of ancient Chinese society. People in the past were influenced by spiritual and religious practices and had a strong sense of reverence for the divine. China’s semi-divine traditional culture was also replete with values and virtues like benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness, which are depicted in many of the performance’s story-based dances.
The McDonoughs think it’s important that people have a stronger connection to spirituality and said the performance was like a “spiritual moment in time.”
“You can sense the connection that the dancers are trying to convey between spirituality and to the reality,” McDonough said.
With reporting by Sally 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.