New York-based Shen Yun is now in its 12th year of touring the world. The company gave the audiences at The Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington D.C. an eight-performance run this year from April 10 to 15.
“This was the first time I’ve really learned very much about Chinese culture and it was wonderful to learn. The dances were just magnificent. I loved the way the dancers could use costumes, sort of almost as an extension of their body,” said Ann Reese, deputy chief financial officer, U.S. department of transportation. “I thought that was quite wonderful.”
“I enjoyed the athleticism of the dancers, the choreography, and the music. It was very entertaining, ” said Dennis Finnerty, a retired member of the foreign service at the U.S. Department of State. “I enjoyed it very much.”
Tickets for the seven originally scheduled shows were sold out, and so an extra show was added for Sunday night.
According to its website, the 2-hour Shen Yun performance consists of about 20 pieces, moving from one story, region, and dynasty to the next.
“It was very enjoyable. The variety was very interesting. I am especially glad to see the acknowledgment of other ethnic groups in China,” said John McGuinness, adjunct professor of philosophy at Northern Virginia Community College and retired analyst from U.S. Department of State. “I especially enjoyed the Hmong dance and the Mongolian chopstick dance—it was very charming and very refreshing.”
“It was absolutely wonderful,” said Lucille Roybal-Allard, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, California’s 40th Congressional District. “Not only was the dancing and the costumes absolutely beautiful, but it really was very, very inspiring to be able to listen to some of the stories that were told through dance.”
China’s 5,000-year-old history is filled with legends of people becoming enlightened or obtaining the Tao through self-cultivation—cultivation of one’s moral character.
Taoist thought is as old as Chinese culture itself. The systemization was carried out by the sage Lao Zi who wrote the Dao De Jing in 500 BC. It teaches: man follows the earth, the earth follows heaven, heaven follows the Tao, and the Tao follows what is natural.
“I think this show brings—a moral and spiritual element in our daily lives—forward in a very real way,” said Mr. Finnerty.
“I think that it is something that every Chinese person, every Chinese American, and every American, just in general, can be so proud of,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. “This is something that I think everyone should see to gain an appreciation for the history, the beauty of Chinese culture, dance, and music.”
But in 1949, the Communist Party seized power and began to systematically destroy the ancient Chinese culture. They broke down the Chenghua Monument in Confucius’s mansion, the equivalent of tearing down the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
“It would be very important for more Americans to see this kind of show, to be able to understand the kind of change that occurred in China with the onset of the communist regime in 1949,” said Mr. Finnerty. “The communist regime so radically tried to change Chinese culture.”
“[Shen Yun] helped to remind those of us who only very often, quite frankly, only know the negative aspect of what is happening in China and don’t have an appreciation for what was in China, the culture and the beauty. And through this program, that is being brought to life again, and it’s educating not only the young Chinese here in America but also the United States in general, the citizens in general so that we can gain a better appreciation for the Chinese culture and its history.” Congresswoman Roybal-Allard added.