NEW YORK—It had been 9-year-old Chloe’s idea that the family spend a night journeying through 5,000 years of Chinese culture. She had seen an advertisement for Shen Yun Performing Arts, and decided she had to see the fan dance.
“I liked the fans. I’ve always liked fan dancing, and the culture,” Chloe said of Shen Yun at a performance at Lincoln Center on March 4. Three generations of the Davidsons attended the outing: parents Liz and Brad Davidson, and the grandparents Susan and Alan Davidson.
One such fan dance was the “Poets of the Orchid Pavilion,” set in the year 353. Through classical Chinese dance, the dancers became a group of scholars playing a drinking game and composing poetry, their fans creating calligraphy-like strokes. The “Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion” by famed calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303–361) appears in the background, on a digitally animated backdrop.
“We like Chinese culture,” said Mr. Brad Davidson, a senior vice president and strategic planner at Aptus Health. Mrs. Liz Davidson had seen a brochure on a movie outing, and the couple thought it would be a new cultural experience for their daughter. Mrs. Susan Davidson—who had seen advertisements for years—immediately said yes, she would be thrilled to attend as well.
Mr. Brad Davidson had practiced martial arts for a long time, and saw what pieces of history remained of traditional Chinese culture via Taiwan—and he was glad for it, he said, because what wasn’t preserved of the culture outside of China would have been burned down when the communists took power. “I don’t think this [the traditions] should go away,” he said.
Mrs. Susan Davidson explained, turning over the program book to read the back, that New York-based Shen Yun is reviving 5,000 years of Chinese civilization. An astonishing thought.
“We’ve traveled all over the world … I guess we didn’t realize you couldn’t see this in China,” she said. “We think it’s wonderful that it’s touring around. … This is so important.”
For thousands of years, the concept of harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind was at the heart of Chinese civilization. It was not until recent decades that this ceased to be the case. When communism took power in 1949 in China, it began a series of systematic campaigns to root out the traditional culture completely.
Thus the revival, Mr. Alan Davidson said, was “extremely culturally important.”
“I think that for cultures to die is such a shame … and this is just so, so well done. It’s such a wonderful representation of another culture,” he said.
Mrs. Susan Davidson felt the history was so alive in the performance, and it showed her a wonderful culture. Every scene presented a new dynasty, or a new story, a new facet of the divinely inspired culture.
There was a story of the Monkey King’s early days from the novel “Journey to the West,” which Chloe had heard stories from, but never this particular vignette. There were Manchurian court ladies in embroidered, elevated shoes, Mr. Brad Davidson pointed out, and a heart-thumping quick-paced Mongolian ethnic dance Mrs. Susan Davidson loved. Every time the curtain rose, she thought she’d seen her favorite dance. Then the next dance would begin, and take her breath away once again.
What Mrs. Susan Davidson loved so much was that in the midst of this stressful world, Shen Yun brought art that was just so relaxing. She gestured as if to encompass that feeling.
“A civilization can’t live without the arts. The arts are so important, I think, especially in this stressful world. And there’s always stress in the world, but this is sooo relaxing,” she said. “I can’t imagine living without the arts, I can’t.”
She noted it was partly the spirituality of the culture that created this effect.
“Doesn’t it help us cope in our world too?” she said.
Mr. Alan Davidson felt it was crucial to life.
“It’s very important. Why? Without it there’s no reason for our living well. Living to be a machine is not appropriate,” he said. “To be human means to fly with the angels, really.”
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 reactionssince Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.