AUSTIN, Texas—The world today exists in contentious times, with elections that inspire apathy and a restlessness, according to producer Jim Crill. But all of this falls by the wayside with the “persistent beauty” of Shen Yun Performing Arts—a beauty with the power to uplift and inspire.
“At a time when our nation is locked in contentious behaviors and political discussions, people need Shen Yun,” he said at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on March 21. Mr. Crill is well acquainted with the effect New York-based Shen Yun can have on a viewer, having seen the performance four times.
“This is my fourth time and it is my best, but not better than the others. Best because I needed it,” he said. There had been death in the family and tough times. At age 74, he is still working tirelessly, recently having traveled 6,000 miles in three weeks, getting just three hours of sleep at night. But “as tired as I am tonight, and I am being honest about that … it rejuvenates my heart, my mind, my body.”
“It is a new experience every time,” he said. “I look at it differently; it looks at me differently, it helps shape me.”
The rejuvenating quality of the performance comes from the artists, according to Mr. Crill.
Formed in 2006 by a group of artists who wanted to share the traditional Chinese culture with the world, the company has grown to have four equal-sized companies that tour to over 100 cities each year simultaneously.
It amazed Mr. Crill that they could get off a bus at a new city each day and do what they do with so much energy and compassion.
“[They] have that smile on their face and the energy and the clarity, and the obvious affection for the audience, it is stunning,” he said. “It’s not something you typically find in a performance,” he noted.
He saw the graciousness of the artists throughout the performance, from the stories, to the way the costumes were used. The way the color yellow was used, the effect of some of the fans in one dance, all of that created the picture of goodness for him.
It reminded him that, amid a political climate with people arguing and trying to underhand each other, there is no need to be so complicated. The individual has the power to look inside and find that seed of goodness, and embody that.
He wanted others to see Shen Yun so they could come to see something to remind them of “quiet and peaceful, love, and beauty, and then get a fresh look at things.”
As a Christian, he defines these good traits as loving one another, treating each other nicely, being good, and doing the right things, he said. “Shen Yun captures the beauty of [those traits.] … and all people need a dose of Shen Yun.”
The Human Spirit
This year, Mr. Crill brought his son Mr. Nick Crill, who had heard his father speak about Shen Yun many, many times in the past.
His first impression was “Breathtaking. Beautiful, deeply spiritual and very heartfelt. And it softens my heart.”
The spirituality of the culture—which is in fact said to be divinely inspired—came through in many ways for Mr. Nick Crill.
First, it was plainly stated in the lyrics of the bel canto solo vocalists. They performed original Chinese pieces, but with English translations of the lyrics projected on the backdrops.
According to Shen Yun’s website, the songs are philosophical in nature, touching on themes like the meaning of human life.
For Mr. Nick Crill, the songs said to him “basically …. we are from God and our goal is return to God. And we do that through kindness.”
Secondly, the movement itself seemed to be spiritual, compared to, say, the Olympics performances, where it is about “pure physical perfection,” he said. Not that the dance Shen Yun performed wasn’t physical, with the high leaps and flips, or perfect in synchronicity and effect.
He just felt that the physical performance was “for the sake of showing God’s beauty, and kind of inspiring our hearts in a way.” The artists were more human than beautiful machines, he said.
“Not over-rehearsed, even though I know they rehearsed … they practice for 10 million times, like they probably have, but it came across very natural and fun, playful, heartfelt,” he said.
That inner spirit he felt is very much a core component of classical Chinese dance, according to Shen Yun’s website, which outlines the history and form of the thousands-of-years-old dance system.
It’s referred to as “bearing.” Dancers are aware of their bearing, inner spirit, and state of mind, which, combined with the form and method of the dance, allow the nature of the Chinese culture and people come through in movement. This is what, Shen Yun says, allows for the portrayal of all sorts of characters through dance.
Mr. Nick Crill said it was like he was getting to see the secretive world of Chinese history. For thousands of years, there was little contact with the West. Then in recent decades, the Chinese Communist Party took power and all but destroyed the traditional Chinese culture, persecuting people for their beliefs and destroying structures like temples and statues.
Some of the stories bring up the modern history of China, Mr. Nick Crill noted, which show not just a physical captivity of the people under the regime’s rule, but a spiritual captivity as well.
The stories also showed spiritual enlightenment, and freedom, he said. “I thought that was a beautiful thing.”
People today might be over-entertained to the point of even being cynical about it, Mr. Nick Crill said, but Shen Yun was not to be dismissed. In tandem with the technology of its animated digital backdrop, physically demanding choreography, and elaborate costumes, there is a real spiritual nature in the performance that made it unique, he thought.
“I think the Chinese culture is so old, so ancient, you know, they define the word civilization. I mean, they were civilized before people started using the words, ‘we are civilized,'” he said.
Reporting by Stacy Chen and Catherine Yang
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.
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.