TAOYUAN, Taiwan—Professor Alice Pañares from the Philippines was invited to watch Shen Yun’s show on April 15, 2016. She was most impressed with the disciplines she saw in artists. “It’s a different kind of discipline. It’s not just technical. The dancers have a certain spirit among them,” she said, “No one tries to be the best, or the one standing out, not even if he or she performs solo. The (artists) work together and support each other. Beautiful.”
As the Head of the Subcommission on Cultural Dissemination of National Committee on Cultural Education in the Philippines, she believes that if children could be educated with such discipline, “there will be less violence in the world.”
Ms. Pañares saw virtues in the 5,000 years of Chinese culture manifested in Shen Yun’s stories. It was important to promote these virtues, she says, because people would never “do something ugly when confronted with something beautiful. It strikes the soul of a person.”
According to Shen Yun’s website, “Principles such as benevolence and justice, propriety and wisdom, respect for the heavens, and divine retribution, all come to life, washing over the audience. Originating from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, these ideals are the essence of traditional Chinese culture.”
Believing that a person’s outer beauty is a reflection of his inner virtue, Ms. Pañares saw beyond the dancing skills. People “say that you have to practice and practice but if you don’t have a beautiful soul, the [dance] will not be as beautiful.”
For Ms. Pañares, Shen Yun is more than entertainment. Instead it is a superior way to teach things that make us better people. “There are things you cannot teach through books or words. But through beauty, art, dance, [virtues in Shen Yun’s stories] immediately impress the soul,” she said.
She used “Monks and the Red Guards” as an example to show how the arts could teach the future generations. “When the monks were attacked [by the Red Guards] and they don’t have any weapons, they were able to conquer the soldiers. It’s because they had a strong inner force: divinity. The strength from the divine overpowers the guns,” Ms. Pañares said.
The story took place in the late 1960s, according to Shen Yun’s program, “Red Guards arrive at a remote monastery and try to drive out the monks. But they soon discover that sheer force cannot move these monks, who possess supernatural martial arts skills.”
People today “do not have the inner strength or the belief in divinity, nor do they possess the characters of forbearance and love. We are too realistic now,” Ms. Pañares said.
The lesson taught in the stories could help cut down the violence in the world “so there will no longer be conquering violence with violence,” she hoped.
The dancing in Shen Yun could teach people a good lesson as well, she believed. “The dancers are like angels because they are so perfect, so light, and so disciplined. I am sure that it took them many years to reach that level of perfection. Today, everything is instant. We forget how to do things in a persistent and disciplined manner,” she said.
Ms. Pañares said that Shen Yun’s production is “very hard to duplicate” because Shen Yun’s general art director “is almost god-like. He lets us see what gods want us to be, which is very hard to preach with words.”
When asked whether she would like to see Shen Yun in the Philippines, Ms. Pañares was positive about the benefits it would bring along. For the young Chinese who were born in the Philippines and are not familiar with Chinese culture, “Seeing the 5,000 years of Chinese culture, they will feel very proud and connected to where their parents and grandparents came from.”
Reporting by Li Yun and Lin Hsin-Yi
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.
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