PEORIA, Ill.—As co-pastors of First Christian Church in Canton, Ill., Nina and Glenn Nestlerode spent a half hour in a silent meditation group. The thought that if the couple lived in China they might be arrested or tortured for doing such a thing—as depicted in the Shen Yun Performing Arts dance “The Steadfast Heart”—really touched them.
“That kind of persecution had been a part of Christianity in its early times and still is in some places today,” Mr. Nestlerode said. “But it is something to combat peacefully, … to protest. So we applaud that.” The pastor, along with his wife and son, saw the performance at the Peoria Civic Center on April 20.
Formed in 2006, the company has made it its mission to restore traditional, divinely inspired arts and values, which the communist party has spent decades unraveling. But before that, for thousands of years, the Chinese believed in harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind, and believed that culture itself was gods’ gift to us.
In addition to the story-based dances that tell of China’s current situation like the Nestlerodes mentioned, each of the 20 short performances weave in aspects of divine influence: Tang Dynasty maidens are adorned in garments said to come from celestial inspiration; singers ask us to reflect on life’s true purpose; a literary figure known as the Monkey King is an allegory for the monk who brought Buddhism to China.
For Mr. Nestlerode, the performance’s spirituality was refreshing because we never see that aspect of Chinese culture. It’s hidden. “One must know the history of communism in China is very short, and there must have been tremendous spiritual expression in all the years before … so it’s wonderful to hear some of that—a very missing element,” he said.
As pastors, Mrs. Nestlerode said they completely understood and loved seeing the spirituality and hoped to nurture its flourishing. “That’s beautiful, it’s beautiful to see and even our son gets that. He was loving the storytelling and seeing them pray. It’s wonderful,” she said.
Shen Yun Performing Arts can safely give voice to the faithful who are being persecuted in China because the company is based in New York. It’s not even allowed in China.
“I love that they’re sharing their art in a way that they know that they can’t in China. That’s very moving to me,” Mrs. Nestlerode said.
Reporting by NTD Television 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.