Shen Yun: Expect the Unexpected and a Lot of Beauty

PHILADELPHIA—Shen Yun Performing Arts is in the final leg of its 2014 North American tour and is still wowing audiences who come to see the performance.

Unlike other performing arts companies, Shen Yun is a non-for profit organization, with a mission to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun dancers train at the Fei Tian College and Academy of the Arts in New York, which has consistently produced award-winning performers.

In the packed Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on May 9, you could hear the audience “ooh” and “ahh” after each flawless flip and tricky tumble that are hallmarks of classical Chinese dance. The audience would often burst into applause multiple times during a single dance.

From the moment Shen Yun dancers take the stage, there’s a sense of awe. As female dancers, in their brightly colored silk costumes, float across the stage like celestial beauties, the images projected onto a full-stage backdrop create a scene as if from heaven.

Audience members often find it hard to put into words what they experience during a Shen Yun performance, there’s so much to take in: the quintessential grace of classical Chinese dance; the energy of ethnic and folk dances; world-class bel canto singers; the delight of the erhu soloist; not to mention the journey across 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture. (The erhu is a two-stringed traditional Chinese instrument played with a bow).

Attorney Bernard Pettit, and his wife Patricia, a short story writer, were highly impressed with Shen Yun.

“Excellent, very well done,” Mr. Pettit said, trying hard to find the right words.

“The dancing was superb, the background was great, the set designs were wonderful,” Mr. Pettit said.

“Fabulous, we really enjoyed it,” Mrs. Pettit said. “It was unbelievable, it was really, very, very well done,” Mrs. Pettit said again.

Although it was their first time seeing Shen Yun, it didn’t sound like it will be their last. You could tell they were both deeply touched by the message, which was evident in the way they simply radiated while walking out of the auditorium.

“All I could think of was freedom,” Mrs. Pettit said, gesturing to her heart, implying that that’s where it got her.

The fact that they can’t perform in China, because of their religious beliefs … that’s a sad fact.
— Bernard Pettit

Simply because Shen Yun’s mission is to revive the 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture, which has been nearly destroyed in communist-ruled China, a performance like Shen Yun cannot be seen in China today. But like the emcees of the performance explain, being based outside of China, Shen Yun is able to freely present traditional Chinese culture on stage.

One aspect of contemporary China portrayed by Shen Yun is the story of Falun Dafa. Falun Dafa is an ancient meditation practice based on the principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance—it has been persecuted in China for almost two decades, and is still being persecuted today.

“The fact that they can’t perform in China, because of their religious beliefs … that’s a sad fact,” Mr. Pettit said.

Exceeding Expectations

There were more attorneys in the audience who attested to Shen Yun’s excellence and commended its mission.

Lawyer John McKeever and his wife Kathleen, were equally delighted with their first encounter with Shen Yun.

Kathleen and John McKeever
Kathleen and John McKeever at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)

“I think it’s excellent, it’s wonderful… the culture is ancient, and timeless and I’m enjoying it very much,” Mrs. McKeever said.

“I was looking forward to it and it exceeded expectations. The costuming is beautiful, the dancing is spectacular, I’m not sure what to say except that we’re enjoying it tremendously,” said Mr. McKeever.

Len and Barbara Togman, who’ve been married for 55 years, drove up from Delaware for the evening.

“I think the dancers are marvelous,” Mr. Togman said. “It’s different. It’s more enjoyable to me than ballet,” he said.

Mrs. Togman was in sales before she retired and also taught drama to high school students.

“I think that the spectacle is really beautiful and it’s very different, and the music is very enjoyable,” she said.

Mr. Togman recommended that Shen Yun come perform in Wilmington, Delaware, where the couple resides.

Nick Sucarato, registered dietitian, and his girlfriend, nurse Martha Moore, came from New Jersey to see Shen Yun on a mystery date arranged by Ms. Moore. It was their first time to see Shen Yun, but it probably won’t be their last.

“Fantastic, awesome, beat my expectations,” Mr. Sucarato said, describing the evening.

Ms. Moore was glad she made the right decision to come see Shen Yun. “I thought it was beautiful, just beautiful … the costumes, the colors—it’s magical,” she said.

Martha Moore Nick Sucarato
Martha Moore and Nick Sucarato at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Saturday, May 9, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)

Along with gaining a better understanding of Chinese culture, Ms. Moore said she also learned about the “peace-loving people” who practice Falun Dafa, as portrayed in the Shen Yun dance like “The Power of Compassion.”

The dance depicts a brutal attack on the peaceful Falun Dafa meditators by Chinese police, during which one officer slips and injures his leg. Instead of running away, the young man stops to help him and shares with the officer the principles Falun Dafa: truth, compassion, and tolerance. The officer then comes to regret his actions.

Mr. Sucarato was so impressed with the feeling of divinity that pervades the performance, he said he really felt the spirit coming across in the dances.

” Can’t really describe it … still absorbing it,” he said.

“I found it inspirational. I’m leaving here a little lighter,” Mr. Sucarato said.

“Don’t hesitate to go,” Ms. Moore recommended to all who haven’t yet experienced Shen Yun.

Reporting by Kristina Pentchoukova

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.

Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.