COLUMBIA, S.C.—Shen Yun Performing Arts begins at the beginning of time, with an ancient Chinese legend about the Creator coming down to earth and imparting culture, building a glorious civilization in the land of China. The audience is then taken on a journey through the 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, experiencing the divinely inspired culture of the “Middle Kingdom.”
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts graced Columbia’s Koger Center for the Arts stage, uplifting audience members and taking them on an adventure through time. Chris Pratt, who attended his first Shen Yun performance on March 5, 2020, came away with new insights into China.
Pratt, CEO at Premier Safety Private Equity, said Shen Yun’s performance was “very educational, spiritual, as well as very entertaining.”
He felt that through Shen Yun he had learnt so much about Chinese culture hewasn’t aware of, and many others would too.
Reviving Traditional Chinese Culture
Shen Yun was formed in 2006 by a group of like-minded classically trained dancers and musicians. Their mission was to revive traditional Chinese culture, which was left on the brink of extinction after the Cultural Revolution. Shen Yun was thus born. Today, their vision has become a worldwide phenomenon, expanding from one to seven equally large dance companies that travel the world simultaneously.
Pratt endorsed Shen Yun’s mission of reviving traditional Chinese culture:
“I think it’s a great effort, I think with the government [China has] got, the people have to make the change, has to happen from the bottom up,” said Pratt.
As well as learning about stories from ancient China, Pratt also learnt about the spiritual oppression that takes place in China today. For Pratt, this was a main educational takeaway from the performance.
Though the Cultural Revolution happened decades ago, today in China, the spiritual beliefs and practices that once thrived are still being oppressed and persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is officially atheist. This persecution extends to orthodox Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and the spiritual practice of Falun Dafa. Shen Yun depicts this spiritual oppression through two of its dance pieces.
Pratt felt Shen Yun was “educational for everyone,” and that the more people who know about the practice of Falun Dafa and what’s taking place in China, the better. In Shen Yun’s storytelling dances, the modern-day tales of spiritual believers are ones where good ultimately wins out, and this was an outcome Pratt hoped could become reality.
Traditional Chinese culture is more than just its style of dance, musical instruments, and legends—the core of Chinese culture lay in its values and spirituality. According to Shen Yun, this spirituality was in fact the inspiration of its art forms—and even attire, with some styles, said to be inspired by the attire worn in the heavens.
The name “Shen Yun” means “beauty of divine beings dancing,” and Pratt felt this came across very well in the dancing.
An Inner Difference
The Shen Yun performers continue their own spiritual tradition, by practicing the ancient Chinese spiritual discipline, called Falun Dafa (Falun Gong). The practice includes meditation and the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.
The performers believe this practice helps them with their art forms, and to emit positive energy to audiences. Many audience members report feeling this inner difference through the performances.
Pratt’s wife, who attended the performance with him, felt uplifted during the performance. Being a former dancer herself, she was able to appreciate the small details that most non-dancers wouldn’t notice and shared she paid particular attention to the dancers’ hand motions.
“Everything was beautiful—it was just so uplifting and educational. I used to dance, so I respect everything they did, it was beautiful,” she said.
“They did a wonderful job, very talented,” Pratt said of the Shen Yun dancers.
He also appreciated that the emcees who introduced each piece were humorous as well as educational, which he said was a welcomed surprise.
With reporting by Mary Mann and Grace Coulter.