WASHINGTON—Shen Yun Performing Arts graced the stage at the Kennedy Center Opera House on Saturday, March 24, during their two week run through April 1.
“This is very exciting—I mean the whole event, the fact that is something very culturally different,” said Mark Stevens, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs, who is currently a commanding officer with the US Navy. “The point is I love the culture.”
Mr. Steven’s home is filled with Chinese art and antiques, and he feels a strong connection to the Asian region after having lived in Korea and Japan, as well as Chinese history.
Shen Yun, which is based in New York, travels around the globe displaying the 5,000-year-old divinely-inspired Chinese culture, according to its website.
“In a collection of short pieces, audiences travel from the Himalayas to tropical lake-filled regions; from the legends of the culture’s creation over 5,000 years ago through to the story of Falun Dafa in China today; from the highest heavens down to the dusty plateaus of the Middle Kingdom,” states the website. “Classical Chinese dance is at the heart of the performance, along with brilliant costumes, breathtaking projection, and an orchestra that combines both classical Western and Chinese instruments.”
Mr. Stevens said: “The costuming is beautiful and the music is fantastic.” He also “loved the interaction of the backdrop,” which towers above the dancers and shows different landscapes from throughout the vast country of China, as well as throughout different historical time periods.
“That was very nice because some of the stories are very complex, you can’t tell it in five minutes without some other graphic elements,” said Mr. Stevens.
As a lover of Chinese culture, Mr. Stevens noticed an aspect of Shen Yun during several of its dances set in modern China.
“There’s a lot of repression of the people,” he said. “It’s sort of surprising that China is as repressive as it is and that we have so much activity with them at this point, so that was actually a very good cultural point that there’s still big issues in China.”
Communist rule in China over more than 60 years has corrupted the ancient culture, one that was replete with virtues such as benevolence, sincerity, and respect for the heavens, nearly driving it into extinction, according to Shen Yun’s website.
“Shen Yun’s goal is to revive the authentic and original manifestation of traditional Chinese culture and art,” states the website. “On stage, Shen Yun performances bring back these traditional values that have sustained and created cultural expression for so many generations. The mere representation of this lost heritage and its virtues immediately, by way of contrast, unmasks the Party and its ideology of struggle.
“This is why the Communist Party fears Shen Yun, and why this kind of performance cannot be seen in China today,” concludes the website.
“I think China today is trying to move very fast into the future and I think this shows that there is, clearly, some people trying to hold onto the past,” said Mr. Stevens. “And we never should lose who we are and what we do.”
Part of reviving the diverse culture of China is the ethnic and folk dances in Shen Yun’s program, such as a Tibetan dance portraying life in the Himalayas, which Mr. Stevens “was really excited about seeing.”
Steve Lindquist, who accompanied Mr. Stevens to the performance, shared his experience.
“I loved the costumes, the synchronization between the dancers; you know the traditional aspects of the program are just absolutely wonderful,” he said. “It’s beautifully choreographed, and it’s just a really nice treat.”
Reporting by Sally Sun and Zachary Stieber.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun Performing Arts Touring Company will perform at The Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C., through April 1.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org