Shen Yun: Not Like China Today

February 13, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—Mike and Jennifer Kelly lived in Suzhou, China, for four years, but what they saw on stage at the DeVos Performance Hall on Tuesday night, Feb. 11, was not the China they knew.

Shen Yun Performing Arts brings ancient legends, myths, and stories of modern China to life through classical Chinese dance.

Mr. Kelly started the Suzhou plant for the Holland, Mich., company Trans-Matic Manufacturing, Inc. He witnessed the company grow from 2 to 125 employees in a short time.

Ms. Kelly taught English while she was there. She loves China because it’s so rich in history and culture.

As for Shen Yun: “I loved it,” she said. “I thought it was a beautiful performance.”

“It was a good mix of Western and Chinese with the music and instruments,” she added.

Shen Yun, based in New York, tours with a live orchestra, unique for bringing together Chinese melodies with the precision of Western orchestration.

Mr. Kelly loved the music, and thought the digitally-animated backdrops were “pretty cool. I like how they played into jumping in and back.”

According to the company’s website, through the backdrop Shen Yun extends the stage, “transporting the audience to a world where heaven and earth are one.”

For Mr. Kelly, hearing the Chinese language and listening to Chinese music made him a bit nostalgic for the friends he’d made in China.

Yet he and his wife felt that the backdrop depicting heavenly vistas seemed foreign to what they knew of China—they saw no art depicting heavenly realms while there.

However, the values and spirituality that Shen Yun aims to restore, and that were once a foundation for Chinese culture, seemed new to the couple. This was not the China they knew.

“It was different because we didn’t see a lot of religion in China,” Mr. Kelly said. “It wasn’t active, prominent, so anything you saw was government.”

“I heard of a lot of people talk about their religion, different religions, but that was as far as it went,” he added. “You never really got to see what they practiced.”

This is because the in the late 60s, with the advent of the Cultural Revolution, the communist regime began dismantling ancient values and traditions, according to the company’s website.

Reacting to one dance program that presented the persecution Falun Gong practitioners by Chinese officials, Mrs. Kelly said she found the portrayal interesting, because as a foreigner in China, “you didn’t see that or feel that.”

And Mr. Kelly explained why it’s neither seen nor felt in China: “It was hidden,” he said. “So that was really interesting to me, too, to see that take on it.”

“But I can understand why [Shen Yun] couldn’t do this in China: It wouldn’t go very far,” Mr. Kelly said. “With the communist Party there, if they would have seen that, it would have been shut down instantly.”

Reporting by Valerie Avore and Sharon Kilarski

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit

The 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.


Grand Rapids, United States
Shen Yun World Company