Shen Yun, ‘They Don’t Realize What They’re Missing’

PHILADELPHIA—Shen Yun Performing Arts’ return to the Merriam Theater graced yet another audience with its unique performance. Indeed, it’s something that’s truly hard to experience these days—the revival of a traditional culture that was once nearly eradicated by a murderous regime during the Cultural Revolution.

Yet, this is the New York-based company’s mission—to revive Chinese culture through the universal language of dance, song, and music. It is a journey that spans 5,000 years, starting with a very simple story, the story of the creator.

Gentle orchestral music enchants the audience. This is Shen Yun’s very own symphony orchestra that skillfully combines Eastern and Western classical instruments to produce distinct sounds that accompany the dancers’ movements on stage. This is how the performance starts, but there are still two more hours of amazement. And so the journey begins.

From dynasty to dynasty attendees experience the wonder that is Shen Yun. This performing arts company was established in New York in 2006, but in under 10 years it has grown four times in size. Audiences around the world have praised Shen Yun’s artistry, professionalism, and dedication.

But perhaps the most notable and the most revered aspect of Shen Yun is its ability to bring you right up to present-day China. Attendee’s of the opening Shen Yun performance in downtown Philadelphia on Friday night were completely in support of Shen Yun’s mission.

“It’s good to see that people like these are getting the message out,” said Bobbie Wilson, who attended the performance with her friend Eliza Ewing.

“It really is a phenomenal performance,” Ms. Wilson said. “I hope it is well received all over.”

Ms. Ewing, a high school student, was intrigued by the human rights dimension of a few of the performances.

One of Shen Yun’s story dance performances, The Power of Compassion, depicts practitioners of Falun Dafa performing gentle meditative exercises outdoors in modern China, when, all of a sudden, police show up with their batons and attack them.

Falun Dafa, which is based on principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance, is banned in mainland China by the atheist communist regime. Hundreds of thousands of adherents have been systematically rounded up, detained, and tortured. Thousands have been tortured to death for their beliefs.

“This was a really thought provoking … representation of what I’ve never thought of before. And in a medium I’ve never thought of using,” she said.

“We’re so involved in so many things in this country, that we tend to forget that there are a lot of other problems out there and for us to be doing something about,”  Ms. Wilson said.

Although it was the first time for both, it definitely won’t be the last. Ms. Wilson, a retired French teacher and addiction therapist, said she’s planning to bring her husband to one of the upcoming performances.

“It was breathtaking. It was very interesting,” Ms. Ewing said.

Ms. Ewing wasn’t the only high school student in the audience who was taken aback by Shen Yun’s mission to revive traditional culture.

Shen Yun emcee Kelly Wen chats with Addington High School students after the performance at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)
Shen Yun emcee Kelly Wen chats with Addington High School students after the performance at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)

A whole group of students from the Addington High School had a similar experience. As the audience rushed out of the theater chatting about what they had just seen, this group of young students stayed back for a quick chat with one of Shen Yun’s emcees, Kelly Wen.

Jack Clark, who studies at Addington, found Shen Yun’s portrayal of the ancient culture interesting, if not enlightening.

“It’s a shame that China is pushing out the old culture,” Mr. Clark said.

Shen Yun Is Not to Be Missed

Sheila Ortega (L) and Cora Hunter at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)
Sheila Ortega (L) and Cora Hunter at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)

Two friends were similarly impressed with Shen Yun’s openness. Sheila Ortega, a retired nurse anesthetist, and Cora Hunter, a retired registered nurse, know each other through their profession.

“This is enlightening, fascinating,” Ms. Hunter said about the performance.

Ms. Ortega said most evident was Shen Yun’s bravery in portraying the events in present day China. “[The performance] is very open and free,” she said.

“I’m surprised there are empty seats here, I don’t think people realize what they’re missing,” Ms. Hunter said.

And indeed this sentiment resonated with others.

Terry Nolan (L) and Sara Reath at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)
Terry Nolan (L) and Sara Reath at the Merriam Theatre in downtown Philadelphia on Friday, May 8, 2015. (Kristina Pentchoukova/Epoch Times)

“I think it’s a shame they can’t perform these dances in China right now,” said Sara Reath, who visited the theater with her close friend Terry Nolan. It was the first time seeing Shen Yun for Mr. Nolan, a landscape artist, and Ms. Reath, an educator.

“We’re lucky that we get to experience them,” she said. Nolan commended Shen Yun for portraying the story dances.

“I think it’s culturally enlightening,” Mr. Nolan added. “I thought the themes were really interesting, I really liked it,” he said.

“Definitely come to see it. It’s a shame there’s only three days of it,” Ms. Reath said.

“I’d definitely recommend it,” Mr. Nolan agreed.

Reporting by NTD Television and Kristina Pentchoukova

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

Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006

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Shen Yun World Company