BALTIMORE—Felicia Petro is a senior reporter with a passion for dance. She graduated from a dance program at university and has since been exploring this craft alongside her career as a journalist. After watching Shen Yun Performing Arts in Baltimore at The Hippodrome Theatre on Dec. 21, she shared an appreciation of the craft and skill of her fellow dancers.
“They are really beautiful artists and their craftsmanship was very perfect,” Petro said.
In particular, she had high praise for the technique of the dancers. Petro pointed out the difficult tumbling and aerial techniques, and speculated that, given the dancers’ advanced skill level, they probably started their training when they were children.
She added that if the dancers had started later in life, “they would have to work really hard to dance like that.”
Shen Yun Performing Arts is the premier classical Chinese dance company, based in New York. The company comprises of classically trained dancers who train in classical Chinese dance, as well as folk and ethnic Chinese dances. Classical Chinese dance is an art form that has evolved over thousands of years and is, alongside ballet, one of the most complex dance systems in the world.
Petro, who previously studied some Chinese dance, recognized some of the unique hand movements, and the culture behind the art. She enjoyed the traditional folk dances, such as the fan dance.
The Chinese fan dance originates in the Han Dynasty and has a history of almost 2,000 years. Female dancers use brightly colored fans as a prop to accentuate their graceful movements and costumes.
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive China’s rich 5,000-year culture and history through classical Chinese dance. Petro said she was glad the traditional dances were being preserved by the company.
“I think remembering the history through the dance is really important,” she said.
While Petro was impressed by the dancers’ artistry, it was ultimately the stories depicted on stage that left a more lasting mark.
Many of Shen Yun’s dances tell stories, from ancient legends to events set in contemporary China. Petro said it was the story of people being persecuted for their faith in China today that touched her the most.
“It made me feel really emotional,” she said,
Those people depicted in the story are practitioners of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that’s currently banned in China. People who are caught practicing the discipline in China face severe persecution, including torture, imprisonment and even death.
Falun Gong involves meditation exercises and a set of teachings centered around the principles: Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance. It started in China in 1992 and gained considerable popularity, with around 70 million people practicing domestically by 1999. This popularity was unacceptable to the Chinese Communist Party, which banned the practice in the same year and launched a sweeping crackdown against practitioners across the country.
For Petro, the depiction of such a persecution on stage was something she could understand because, despite it occurring in a place far from America, it touched upon a universal theme.
“I can understand people going to jail for their faith, that [also] happens with Christians in China,” she said. “It’s sad that that is still going on. People should be able to practice their faith.”
What made the performance so moving was that the relationships depicted in the story—which reminded Petro of her own grief. And more importantly, it showed how to heal as well. The story showed loved ones coming together to help, and healing after persecution.
“Those are very universal themes,” Petro said.
With reporting by Jenny Jing and Cathy He.
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.