HOUSTON—Profound emotions sometimes appear when you least expect them.
When Samuel Smith, a retired deputy from Harris County, Texas, attended Shen Yun Performing Arts on Jan. 1, 2020, he was looking forward to nothing more than an entertaining evening. He was surprised at how deeply the show’s divinely-inspired aspects moved him.
“It made emotion come out of me that I didn’t believe that I could have. It made me show emotion while watching the show,” Smith said, still touched after seeing New York-based Shen Yun at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts.
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture through highly-expressive art forms such as classical Chinese dance and music. Since time immemorial, the Chinese have always revered the divine and sought its guidance in everyday life. This aspect of authentic Chinese culture is one that Shen Yun embraces.
“I was amazed at the spirituality [in Shen Yun]. It’s amazing. It shows something about the persecution of the Chinese people, and I got chills. It was beautiful, I did not imagine that the show was going to be more substance than just entertainment,” Smith said.
The current Chinese regime has sought to wipe out China’s traditional culture, along with its spirituality, since it came to power decades ago. Shen Yun is based in New York and cannot perform in China due to the ongoing persecution of spiritual believers there, especially followers of the ancient discipline Falun Dafa, which Shen Yun artists practice. The stage production includes heart-wrenching but hopeful stories about overcoming this persecution.
Moments when divine beings were depicted on stage especially stood out to Smith, such as one classical Chinese dance vignette Smith recalled entitled “Li Bai and His Angelic Encounter.”
“It was beautiful,” Smith said. “Definitely a spiritual message. It had also a message about the Creator of the universe. It’s just beautiful, it’s amazing, I never expected. I just thought it was going to be a lot of dance and acrobatics and really entertaining, but instead it had some real substance, had a spiritual message, and showed persecution, and how they’re here in New York now instead of China because they cannot perform their message in China.”
The beliefs held in traditional Chinese culture resonated with Smith’s own.
“Usually, when several people get together and they’re doing things for the Creator, speaking for Him, He’s there in the middle of it, the Creator is there with you, inspiring,” Smith said.
He believes that Shen Yun performers’ “unbelievable talent is given by the Creator. The Creator gives gifts to a person and He helps them to manifest the gift.”
Smith encouraged Shen Yun’s artistic director to “keep doing what he’s doing because it’s a message—because I was surprised at the spiritual message of the whole show. But not everything was completely spiritual. It also showed the Chinese history and Chinese life. And it was just wonderful, it encompasses everything. It was just a great show.”
Dance Studio Director Wants to Connect Shen Yun and Students
Charity Carter is the owner and artistic director at Fort Bend Academy of Arts and Dance and had been hoping for years to see Shen Yun. Today, she finally got her chance.
“I’ve loved it so far. … I think the quality is wonderful. You can see the classics of Chinese systems of dance. They’re always so disciplined. They’re always so precise, so pristine, and everything is flawless. I’m enjoying watching them,” Carter said.
She was inspired to invite the dance company to Fort Bend one day to teach a masterclass “so that [her students] can understand and appreciate the different customs in the different traditions. But they all have a basic foundation of technique.”
Carter also hopes that more of Houston’s suburban children and youths can attend Shen Yun in order to one day take up the mantle of keeping the art and culture alive.
“So that the culture can be preserved … because you don’t want that culture to be lost,” she said.
“Seeing is believing. So when a young kid sees it, then a young kid would say, ‘They look like me, I want to do that,'” Carter said.
With reporting by Sally Sun and Brett Featherstone.