PHOENIX—Founder and chairman of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Richard Stephenson and his wife, Dr. Stacie Stephenson, were thrilled to tears when they experienced Shen Yun Performing Arts. Richard was captivated by the spectacle on stage but was also touched by the messages it portrayed, saying that it was an “expression of the human spirit that you don’t see on stage, screen, or elsewhere.”
“[Shen Yun] couldn’t have done a better job. This needs to be better understood and more widely displayed,” he said.
Richard is also a global merchant banker. He said he founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in the memory of his mother, who died of cancer. Meanwhile, Stacie is a family physician, lecturer, a practitioner of functional medicine, a certified acupuncturist, and a philanthropist.
The Stephensons attended the performance at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix on Feb. 24. Richard bought tickets to the traditional dance and music production as a surprise for his wife, who was captivated by the performance.
“The cultural experience, I can’t imagine that anyone should ever miss it,” Stacie said, adding that Shen Yun spoke to her heart.
“The beautiful classical dance, the beautiful classical blending of emotion, and freedom, and caring, and human beings taking care of each other, even when someone was wrong, they still help the person that hurt them, and that just made me cry,” she said.
Freedom of Expression
New York-based Shen Yun has a mission to revive China’s 5,000 years of semi-divine culture that was nearly destroyed after seven decades of communist rule.
Richard appreciated how Shen Yun is trying to revive this culture and share it with the world, despite opposition and challenges they face from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
“The human spirit [is getting] buried under the yoke of oppression, persecution, and that’s not what the Creator had in mind for us. And [Shen Yun] reveals that in elegance to us today,” he said.
China itself was once known as Shen Zhou, or the Divine Land, a term to describe a land where deities and mortals coexisted, and a belief that the divine transmitted a rich culture to the people of the earth. Many of Shen Yun’s dances draw from the inner spiritual core of China’s culture, which encompasses the virtues of benevolence, kindness, and honor.
But after the CCP seized power in 1949, genuine Chinese culture was almost decimated, according to the Shen Yun website. From cultural sites and temples to ancient relics and people’s beliefs, much of China’s history and spirit were destroyed.
With Shen Yun performing in over 100 cities around the world a year, the performance is like a window into a cultural treasure that is nearly lost.
“What you expressed to us in dance, classical music, [and] wonderful, absolutely flowing, unbelievable theatrical performance that highlighted the importance of the Creator, makes it possible for this freedom of expression,” Richard said.
He added that as humans we do not have to abide by a regime that suppresses people’s freedom. “We are not to be subject to the yoke of someone else’s judgment,” he explained.
“[Shen Yun] is an expression of freedom, and all the art, and all the craft, and all the elegance. You’re not able to do any of that if you’re not free. Thank you for giving us an option to see this expression,” Richard said,
Stacie shared similar views with her husband, saying: “It must be thousands and thousands of years from your beautiful country, and I’m so sad to also see how [the culture has] been hurt so much. And I understand you all trying to bring it back and show it to all of us. Thank you. Appreciated it.”
She said that she was able to see the passion to revive the culture through the performers’ movements and facial expressions.
“I see the light in their eyes and the smiles on their faces, and they just want to show their beautiful classical culture with everyone here in America,” she said. “I felt the energy just coming right through … I can see everyone’s eyes because I was in the front row.”
She added that she was glad to have seen Shen Yun, saying that “it is inspiring your heart, it’s inspiring your soul, and it gives you hope for humanity.”