WASHINGTON—Shen Yun Performing Arts took the stage at The Kennedy Center Opera House on Friday evening, March 23, matching elegance and style in a performance that pleased the audience.
“This is my eighth time seeing it,” said Gina Sacripanita, director of business development and marketing at The Washington Examiner. “With the exception of one show, I have been to every show that has played in D.C. I love the new additions.”
New York-based Shen Yun presents an all-new performance every year, displaying the grandeur of one of the most ancient cultures in the world—the 5,000-year-old, divinely inspired Chinese culture, according to the music and dance company’s website. Shen Yun was formed to revive this culture after it was nearly destroyed by more than 60 years of communist rule in China.
“Sophisticated dance techniques, an orchestra joining instruments East and West, beautiful costumes, and a stunning back drop—this is Shen Yun at first glance,” states the website. “But digging deeper, one discovers a sea of traditional Chinese culture. Mortals and divine beings merge on stage as one. Principles such as benevolence and justice, propriety and wisdom, respect for the heavens, and divine retribution, all come to life, washing over the audience. Originating from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, these ideals are the essence of traditional Chinese culture.”
‘It has been breathtaking’
In the audience, on Thursday evening, was Judy Vincent, the director of special services at the Booth Centre Mens Hostel, a Salvation Army rehabilitation center just outside of Leesburg, Virgina. Mrs. Vincent and her husband were accompanied by some men from the hostel, and some of their children.
“We try to introduce them to all kinds of different cultural events,” said Mrs. Vincent. “This will help them as they go back to their family to do things with them they have not done before.”
The Vincents enjoyed the performance immensely. “It has been breathtaking,” said Mrs. Vincent. “I love the fact that it is all classical. I love how they have been introducing us to different cities like that one in Tibet. It is so wonderful, the colors are unbelievable. The kids were even enjoying it.”
At the heart of a Shen Yun performance is classical Chinese dance, “rich with expressive power,” according to the company’s website. “Classical Chinese dance is composed of three main parts: bearing, form, and technical skill. Other than complete training in the fundamentals, it also entails systematic training in movements and postures, as well as very difficult jumping and tumbling techniques. And so, alongside ballet, classical Chinese dance is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world.”
“If you want to show the culture and express it this is the best way,” said Mrs. Vincent. “Visually, it is a whole lot more graceful and beautiful than I expected. It is absolutely amazing to watch them tell a story with their whole bodies.”
Short pieces take the audience through space—to different areas of the vast land of China—as well as time. Some dances depict modern-day China under communist rule, and the persecution of Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, which is guided by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance, according to Shen Yun’s website.
“Falun Gong has helped over a hundred million Chinese people understand and return to the essence of traditional Chinese culture … And yet, the Chinese Communist Party, whose regime and ideology are in stark contrast with the traditional culture of China, has targeted Falun Gong for persecution,” states Shen Yun’s website. “Since 1999, the regime has focused its powers and resources on a ruthless and systematic campaign against Falun Gong practitioners in an attempt to eradicate the group. But Falun Gong practitioners have held firm to their beliefs and have continued to expose countless injustices through peaceful means. Their spirit of compassion and tolerance manifest the very essence of China’s 5,000-year-old divine culture.”
“We are all people searching for the good way, the right way, not the evil way, even though we come from different religious backgrounds,” said Mrs. Vincent. “This has certainly been eye opening. We pray for China all the time because they are under persecution all the time but to see it—these are kids right out of high school, to see them beat up for their belief—it is so sad. It was good to see that part.”
Reporting by Flora Ge and Zachary Stieber.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on 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