RAPID CITY, S.D.—Jessica Castleberry is a member of the South Dakota Senate. On Tuesday evening, the senator brought her mother and son to see Shen Yun Performing Arts after waiting over a year for it to return to Rapid City.
Castleberry purchased tickets to see Shen Yun in March 2020 but the performance was delayed for over a year due to the pandemic. She expressed that seeing the show was a celebration of a 2019 trip they did to China.
“I am absolutely loving this performance, and I especially appreciate the perspective of providing pre-communism China,” Castleberry said. “We were so moved by the message that China is more than communism.”
New York-based Shen Yun is dedicated to depicting China before the ruling communists took power in 1949.
Shen Yun is “celebrating the rich history in China that happened before communism took over,” said the Republican senator.
“Something I feel that it is really important that more Americans realize is that it’s really easy to decide you want to be a communist when you live in a free country, but it’s impossible to decide that you want to be free when you live in a communist country,” she stated firmly.
“We are absolutely, completely supportive of anything that we can do with Chinese people that is looking to inform and educate on what communism does.”
Not only did Shen Yun’s message make an impact on the senator, but the “superb performers” did as well. “Everything was just so flawless and excellent,” she said.
“We were so happy to have the opportunity to come to the production, and appreciated the fantastic performance,” she said. “I think that a performance like this is really going to open the eyes of a lot of Americans to the rich history and the rich culture .”
Castleberry elaborated saying that people from China, or who are currently living in China, should want to spread their 5,000 years of rich culture.
“This production has done an excellent job of bringing the true culture of China to the United States,” she said.
“I hope that Americans are open to attending these performances every single year, and are looking at how we can be more inclusive and welcoming of their culture and how we can possibly help.”
Regarding building a better relationship with China, she said, “The key is just like the final performance here where we’re talking about compassion, where we have compassion for one another, where we’re willing to have open conversations.”
Reporting by NTD, Ilene Eng, and Maria Han.