BOISE, Idaho—A longstanding tradition in the art world is to look to the divine for inspiration. From Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel to folk musicians in China to J.S. Bach, many artists have given heaven credit for helping them with their creations.
Rose Slick of Idaho is an artist who appreciates this tradition and witnessed a present-day example of it when she attended Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts on Jan. 29, 2020.
“When the singer sang, and the words, the words made me cry because a lot of what was said is part of my spiritual belief,” Slick said. “You know how we’re all divine and we’ve forgotten. And true faith fulfilled will deliver you from darkness. It is very deep and profound and immediately I can feel it in my heart.”
New York-based Shen Yun is reviving traditional Chinese culture, which is considered divinely-inspired and contains an essence that is rich in spiritual beliefs and practices. The roughly 20 short pieces in a Shen Yun performance portray characters, images, and themes drawn from China’s 5,000 years of civilization The inherent spirituality is present in everyday life and customs and glimpsed in the stories that show parts of Buddhism, Daoism, and a lesser-known practice called Falun Dafa which follows in that tradition. Falun Dafa is a practice of self-refinement that includes moral principles and energy-strengthening exercises. Shen Yun artists themselves follow Falun Dafa in their daily lives because they say it brings their performances to greater levels of emotion and artistry.
“[Shen Yun] is beautiful,” Slick said. “I love it. I love it. It’s so colorful and expressive, and creative and funny and intricate and multi-layered, and everyone’s so talented. It’s mind-blowing. I can’t fathom it. It’s just amazing.
“It’s so beautiful. It’s like looking at a sunrise or a galaxy. It’s just gorgeous,” Slick continued, adding that the artists could not have done a better job portraying traditional Chinese culture: “It’s top-notch!”
What especially touched the artist’s heart in Shen Yun are “the colors and the background and then how the dancers kind of match it with their movements and their outfits and their expressions.”
Slick found deep meaning throughout the performance and said the message she perceived changed from piece to piece.
“[The message] is very well portrayed, it’s very well expressed. You get the point of what’s happening. Every dance is different, but I like how they bring what’s happening in China here, in a beautiful, fun way. But also it shows the seriousness of some of it,” Slick said.
“[The meaning] depends on the dance. So, you know, one dance can be happy and just showing how a village comes alive at night or how a palace used to look. I like how different dances show different historical meaning, like they would dance for the emperor. Or the kind of darker one about the prison and being persecuted that shows what’s happening now. And so each different dance has a different meaning,” she added.
A few of the stories in Shen Yun depict the brutal persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China today. Christians, Tibetans, and ethnic Uighurs are also targets of China’s communist-led campaign to try to wipe out the traditional and spiritual essence of China that the regime feels is a threat to its legitimacy. Many find hope and solace in those scenes because of how practitioners of Falun Dafa are responding to brutality with compassion, hope, and faith.
Slick said of the pieces that portray persecution: “It’s sad. Of course, my heart feels for them.”
The fine artist has already been recommending Shen Yun to her friends since this was not her first viewing of one of the performances.
“I lived in Japan and I saw them when I was in Japan and it’s been maybe three years. So I had to come back and see them when they came here. But I’ve been telling all my friends to come see them.
“It’s a rainbow kaleidoscope of culture and dance and beauty. I love it!” she said.
With reporting by Lily Yu and Brett Featherstone.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.