NEW YORK—On stage, 5,000 years of an ancient civilization came to life, and journalist Rita Cosby saw one connecting theme: courage.
Cosby has made a career in interviewing world leaders. The author, television anchor, and special correspondent for CBS’s Inside Edition holds three Emmy Awards and has a day named for her in the state of New York for her exemplary work in journalism. Her work is filled with stories about heroes, and on Jan. 10, she saw more of them on stage at Lincoln Center in Shen Yun Performing Arts.
“This is my fourth time coming here, and I feel like every time it gets better and better,” Cosby said.
The first time she saw the classical Chinese dance company, it blew her away. And though it barely seemed possible, it only got better.
“The performance I have seen now is breathtaking—it’s so powerful, it’s so moving because of the storyline behind it,” Cosby said. “It’s really a story of courage. It’s a story of appreciating history, appreciating the incredible people of China, and I hope the whole world sees this.”
Shen Yun was formed in New York over a decade ago by artists from around the world who wished to revive the authentic traditional Chinese culture and share it with the world. It’s a culture you’ll be hard-pressed to find in China today, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party tried to stamp it out decades ago when it took power, and then through systematic campaigns like the Cultural Revolution over subsequent decades.
But there is a second reason Shen Yun cannot perform in China.
The artists of Shen Yun believe in cultivating their inner selves in order to bring the audience something genuinely good, and truly from the heart. Thus, many of the performers practice Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, which is a spiritual meditation practice that also teaches the three principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
“One hundred percent could I see the theme of compassion, of meditation, of spirituality and inner peace,” Cosby said. She thought the themes were profound, and universal in their nature.
But this practice was introduced in China in 1992, and in just a few years 70 million people had taken up the practice largely because of the physical and mental health benefits—public parks were filled with people meditating in the mornings.
Then in 1999, fearing the rapid growth in popularity, and the inherent spirituality that went against the communist party’s atheist doctrine, the practice was banned. And when the people, who did not understand why something so peaceful was outlawed, quietly continued to practice Falun Dafa, a crackdown began and to this day these people are persecuted for their beliefs. People are arrested, thrown in illegal concentration camps, even tortured and killed.
“I think it’s deeply a shame that they can’t see it [Shen Yun], and that everyone around the world should see it,” Cosby said.
Shen Yun focuses on bringing out the vivid history of China’s 5,000 years through classical Chinese dance that show the various dynasties, and story dances that bring to life myths and legends. Even the stories that touch on the modern day are colored with hope for a brighter future.
Cosby described one story where a woman was imprisoned for her faith, and how it was ultimately inspiring.
“I thought it was so beautiful and so inspiring. And it shows the pain also—when you see a woman who is imprisoned for her faith, and then you see her rise up, and rise up to the divine in the end,” Cosby said. “It’s a story of survival, it’s also a story of incredible hope, incredible spirit, and rising up to the divine, rising up to something greater than yourself.”
“I think this is a message of courage,” Cosby said. “I give the people here performing tonight unbelievable respect and unbelievable praise. I pray that the people of China one day see it, because they deserve to see it, the world deserves to see it.”
The performers’ spirit was apparent and only amplified the message Cosby saw.
“I think it shows you can overcome, that the spirit is there in each and every one of the performers,”she said. “I think the world should come out and see this performance.
Cosby said she thought everyone seeing the performance was bound to walk away inspired.
“I’m walking away deeply inspired and profoundly moved,” she said. “It’s an incredible, incredible performance.”
With reporting by Mary Mann, NTD Television, and Catherine Yang.
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.