NEW YORK—Nine-year-old Sophia Chavez studies ballet and lyrical dance. On a school trip to see a dance performance, she and her classmates stumbled on advertisements for Shen Yun Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Her interest was piqued.
“I had seen commercials and I wanted to go, and really, my dad and I are really interested in this, so we got tickets,” Sophia said. The New York-based company performs classical Chinese dance—which she liked—and tells stories from the thousands of years of Chinese civilizations, like the “Journey to the West” excerpt featuring the Monkey King, or what she called the “flying monkey.”
“I just like how it shows a lot of the culture,” Sophia said.
“It’s a very rich, ancient, and beautiful culture,” said her father, John DiMascio. Mr. DiMascio, a lawyer and former senior court officer for the New York State Supreme Court, has a doctorate in political science and during his education, he said he also immersed himself in East Asian studies, and spent time in that part of the world.
So seeing the different ethnic groups and dynasties from China come alive on stage through dance was an exciting experience.
“I think it is beautiful, I think it is peaceful, I think it is strong, and intelligent,” he said. “I think each of the pieces highlighted one aspect of it. … You saw some cultural ethnic diversity, you saw unity, you saw the cohesiveness of it all.”
“I feel most comfortable in an Asian environment, actually,” he said with a laugh.
Mr. DiMascio said that while Sophia enjoyed the mythical stories, he deeply related to the dances touching on contemporary China—because in China today, people cannot see a Shen Yun performance. When communism took power in China, it sought to eradicate the traditional culture with targeted campaigns like the Cultural Revolution. Temples were destroyed, lives were uprooted, religions outlawed, and freedoms were taken away.
The persecution of people of faith continues today, Mr. DiMascio noted, like the dance “The Steadfast Heart” pointed out. In that dance, an elderly couple are persecuted for following the ancient Chinese spiritual practice Falun Gong.
“I know it’s going on now, I read about it, and I follow it,” he said.
He said that he hopes the awareness would reach more people, because such persecution is an injustice. People who do others no harm—like the cultivators of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance depicted in the dance—should “be allowed to live the only life that they have however they wish.”
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.