Shen Yun and the Art of Endurance

Performance captures 'meaning of life,' says professor
April 16, 2016

COSTA MESA, Calif.—When you think about endurance as related to dance, you usually think of long hours polishing the craft or learning new choreography. For Dr. Everett George Beckwith, the overall message he saw coming from Shen Yun’s story-telling dances revolved around the virtue of endurance.

“I think it’s well coordinated, colorful, and shows a lot of the values of Chinese life through centuries and centuries,” said Mr. Beckwith, a professor at National University.

Crucial to its mission, Shen Yun intends to portray cherished human values such as endurance. The classical Chinese dance and music company tells stories from a long Chinese heritage, rich in virtues like truthfulness, compassion, reverence for the divine, and endurance, to revive the culture.

Shen Yun takes this mission of revival seriously. The dancers aim for a state of mind that encourages tolerance of one another and enduring for their mutual benefit. As Shen Yun dancer Karina Fu states, “Only by expanding your endurance can you maintain a peaceful state of mind when adverse things happen around you.”

By having an awareness of the other dancers onstage and what they might need pays off for the performance as a whole.

Shen Yun dancers “were brilliant. They involved you. They didn’t let you take your eyes off the stage because everything was so well coordinated and moving in unison,” Mr. Beckwith said, after attending Costa’s Mesa performance at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Endurance, like other cherished values, is an ideal brought to humankind by the heavens, according to Shen Yun’s website.

The song lyrics, projected behind the award-winning vocalists, for example, show the relationship between the heavens and humankind.

“I thought they were very philosophical,” Mr. Beckwith said of the lyrics. “They capture the meaning of life and why we’re here on the planet and how we might relate to a higher order.”

The story-telling dances also explore this idea. In “Hope for the Future,” a modern day couple refuse to renounce their faith despite pressure from the communist regime.

“The husband and wife enduring for something they believed in, being willing to sacrifice and go through hardship and misery, understanding that in the face of all that they could still find joy and happiness,” Mr. Beckwith said, sharing his interpretation of the dance.

Traditional Chinese culture itself, having endured for millenia before the communist regime took power, allowed the audience to consider the ideal of endurance.

“It shows that mankind will endure,” Mr. Beckwith said.

Reporting by Marie-Paul Baxiu and Sharon Kilarski

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.

Costa Mesa, United States
Shen Yun New York Company