ST PAUL, Minnesota—Shen Yun Performing Arts continues to delight audience members as it tours the world portraying traditional Chinese culture and values on stage. Minnesotans were blessed with the opportunity to have their souls enriched by a production that many audience members described as a "once in a lifetime performance."
The New York-based company was founded in 2006 by elite Chinese artists, who came together with the mission to revive China's 5,000 years of semi-divine culture that was lost during seven decades of communist rule. It expanded from one to now six equally-sized companies that perform many sold-out shows across the globe.
Its success can be attributed to a number of reasons from its aesthetics to music and to the meaning behind each piece. On Feb. 14, many audience members in seeing the performance at the St. Paul Ordway Center for the Performing Arts testified as to why a cultural dance and music performance has become a global phenomenon.
"It was magnificent. They really portrayed the divinity within each man and woman and there is hope," said Mats Roing, an accountant with the University of Minnesota.
"It’s something that carries us forward in … the strive of our daily lives," he added.
City Councilwoman Mitra Nelson also shared similar sentiments after experiencing the performance for herself.
"When you start to follow the message, you see they are trying to show the culture existence, they are trying to make a statement about being able to express your values and your heritage," Nelson said.
"I think this is a once in a lifetime performance and you should go see it," she added.
Meanwhile, Nathan Block, co-owner of Woodbury 10 Theatre, said he has been watching Shen Yun for seven years and still enjoys the performance. He hopes that one day Shen Yun can perform in its homeland.
"I think it’s marvelous. Because they can’t do it in China ... they’ve been bringing it to other countries. I think that’s wonderful because they keep it alive," Block said.
Like Block, many audience members are surprised to learn from the emcees that Shen Yun is unable to perform in China.
Little does the audience know, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) sees traditional Chinese culture, which is deeply rooted in Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, as its greatest rival.
The aim of the Cultural Revolution, which occurred between 1966 and 1976, was an unprecedented move to systematically eradicate traditional culture and replace it with Mao Zedong’s way of thinking and style of discourse, as Shen Yun also explains on its website. Therefore, Mao’s campaign has been catastrophic for China’s traditional culture.
With Shen Yun performing in over 100 cities around the world a year, the performance is like a window into a cultural treasure that is nearly lost.
"Hopefully, eventually they could go home where it belongs," Block said.