WASHINGTON, D.C.—Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, has worked extensively on efforts to advance individual religious freedom and human rights in both the United States and foreign policy for the last three decades. On Jan. 24, she saw the theme of religious liberty play out on stage through beauty and art.
At the opening night of Shen Yun Performing Arts at The Kennedy Center Opera House in the nation’s capital, 5,000 years of Chinese civilization were brought to life through music and dance.
“I was inspired by the beauty of Chinese culture, which you don’t get exposed to very much these days,” said Ms. Shea.
“It’s oppressed in China itself, of course, … so it was inspirational to see that, just to see the humanity and the spirit, sort of the turning-to-something-deeper-than-everyday life, something deeper than the cell phones and distractions of everyday life to something more meaningful and hopeful, but looking squarely into the dark times that we’re experiencing both with the COVID pandemic, with the troubles and aggression in China and elsewhere in the world. I think it gave me insight, a way, into the Chinese people’s souls, and I really appreciated that.”
New York-based Shen Yun is the world’s top classical Chinese dance company, having grown tremendously since its inception in 2006. Ms. Shea is one of the millions who have seen a performance of Shen Yun before, and the joy of the experience last year brought her back once more.
“It was absolutely delightful and awesome as it was last year. It was completely fresh. Beautiful performance. And, again the skill of these dancers, the musicians, it’s just as striking. It’s a very beautiful and profound evening. I really enjoyed being in every second of it,” she said.
“It’s really refreshing,” she said. “This was constantly entertaining and inspiring and dazzling as last year. I was as surprised and delighted and awed, frankly, as I was last year. It wasn’t an old show. It was something completely new and fresh.”
Ms. Shea said the stories were different, including ones set to the present day and “adapted to the current times. “The display of the ancient dance and storylines that blends [the modern]—very powerful,” she said.
The modern-day stories touch on current events in China, including the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s oppression of the Chinese people. Many people have come to know Shen Yun’s performance to be one about “China before communism,” showcasing the divinely inspired culture that the current atheist communist regime has tried to erase.
“I thought that was very well done, showing the brutality of the Chinese Communist Party and what people who are just like us, just like us, want to live their lives, want to be peaceful and truthful are forced to suffer because of that,” she said. “I thought it was a powerful statement. It wasn’t too heavy-handed, but it did remind you that there is this real serious crisis going on.”
Reporting by Terri Wu and Jenny Jing.