PHILADELPHIA—Marketing VP Carlos Estela was not expecting Shen Yun Performing Arts to tell stories from China’s expansive history through dance. But it was ultimately this aspect of the performance that impressed him the most.
“It was beautiful,” Estela said. “I very much enjoyed it.”
Estela, who is marketing manager at Citizens Bank, watched the performance at Merriam Theater in Philadelphia on Feb. 27.
The production includes around 20 programs, consisting of classical Chinese dance vignettes, dance-based stories, and vocal soloists. Founded in New York in 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts aims to revive traditional Chinese culture through music and dance.
Shen Yun traverses 5,000 years of Chinese history to share stories onstage that represent the essence of a culture steeped in divine inspiration.
For millennia, Chinese people have believed in the divine, and ideas stemming from this belief such as striving for moral improvement, living in harmony with Heaven and Earth, and divine retribution.
The performance also includes stories from modern-day China, such as depicting the persecution of people of faith under the Chinese communist regime.
While Estela was initially surprised to see this kind of content performed, it turned out to be his favorite program, as he felt a connection with the portrayal.
“The story … was really very moving,” he said.
The piece was about a young Falun Gong practitioner who is imprisoned and tortured for her belief.
While the story was very sad, Estela said, it was even sadder when he found out that this repression is currently taking place in China.
Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is an ancient spiritual practice that consists of meditation exercises and a set of teachings centered on the principles, Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance.
The practice flourished in the 1990s in China, leading to an estimated 70 million adherents by the end of the decade. This popularity was unacceptable to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which launched a sweeping persecution against practitioners of Falun Gong in 1999. Since then, adherents of the practice have been arrested, harassed, imprisoned, and tortured, even to the point of death.
The VP, who was seated close to the stage, appreciated how the 3-D backdrop added another dimension to Shen Yun’s storytelling.
“It was pretty ingenious because they gave you the opportunity to really envision where they were at that time,” Estela said.
In this way, the audience knew exactly what time period they were being transported to, he said.
“It’s also flawless,” Estela added.
The interaction between the artists and the backdrop, he said, was also very clever.
Asked whether this was a production he’d recommend, the VP said he definitely would tell his friends.
“[I’d tell them] they have to come and see and enjoy [it] for more than just what they think it’s going to be,” Estela said.
With reporting by Tony Dang.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.