ATLANTA—Former Speaker of the House and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is no stranger to powerful stories from the past. Before his career in politics, he was a history and geography professor.
But Mr. Gingrich found himself on the other side of the classroom Friday evening at Shen Yun Performing Arts in Atlanta.
“It has been very enjoyable, and I think it introduces thousands of people to a better understanding of Chinese civilization.” Mr. Gingrich said at the Dec. 27 Shen Yun show, adding that the production has “the ability to take stories that cover 5,000 years and make them come alive.”
Shen Yun Performing Arts aspires to bring the five millennia of Chinese civilization and culture to stages across the world through dance and song.
“[Shen Yun] really integrated the movie screen and the dancers remarkably well—I think as well as any program I’ve seen,” Mr. Gingrich said. The show utilizes state-of-the-art animated backdrops that set the theme and settings for its dances. “It made it lively and [made you] lean forward in your seat wondering what was going to happen next,” he added.
Programs from this season’s Shen Yun tour, which began a few days earlier in Houston, include Chinese mythical stories like that of the demi-god Ne Zha and his battle with the underground Dragon King.
“It’s a beautiful display of musical artistry,” Mr. Gingrich’s wife, Callista, said of the collaboration between Shen Yun’s dancers and the musical accompaniment from its live orchestra, which features both classical western and Chinese instruments like the pipa and suona.
“It’s so elegant and so beautifully uniform,” Ms. Gingrich said of the dances, which often feature 20 or more dancers who must synchronize their movements for parts of every piece. “That’s very, very impressive,” she added.
Mr. Gingrich mentioned that his family was drawn to Shen Yun because it incorporates music and dance into a Chinese cultural show.
“Callista is a musician, and so she can see it from different angles than I do, but I think [it’s] very exciting,” he said. “Our granddaughter is a ballerina, and she really wanted to come tonight.”
As the Speaker of the House of Representatives under President Clinton, Mr. Gingrich met with Chinese Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin in Washington, D.C., in 1997 and pressed the Chinese regime on its suppression of its citizens’ religious freedom and other human rights.
“I reminded our Chinese guests that you cannot have economic freedom without political freedom, and you cannot have political freedom without religious freedom,” Mr. Gingrich wrote in a statement after the meeting. “I believe it was vitally important that we used this opportunity to address the basic lack of freedom—speech, liberty, assembly, the press—in China. Had we not done so, we would not only have betrayed our own tradition, we also would have failed to meet our obligations as a friend of China.”
Mr. Gingrich said that his friends in the capital are looking forward to taking in a Shen Yun show when the tour makes its way to the northeastern United States.
“We already have a number of friends who are planning to go when [Shen Yun] comes to Washington,” he said. “They are very excited by it and think of it as a tremendous achievement that [Shen Yun] has put this together.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Mimi Li
Shen Yun will perform at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C., from Jan. 21 through Jan. 26.
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.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.