Business Owners See Brave Meaning in Shen Yun: ‘The Sentiment and the Belief System Survives’
PHILADELPHIA—Performing arts takes many forms and this afternoon, when the owners of a local audio-visual company crossed paths with Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Merriam Theater, an indelible impression was made on Philadelphia’s local culture.
John and Kerin Dezell are the owners of Sound Designs and on Feb. 16, 2020, they attended New York-based Shen Yun where they experienced new sights and sounds, and most of all, current events happening around the world that were unknown to them.
“Yes, [Shen Yun] was very enjoyable,” John said. “We didn’t expect it to be such a great dance routine. I loved the water sleeves … But the lantern dance was also exceptional.”
Shen Yun is made up of roughly 20 short vignettes that tell stories and present scenes from ancient China, modern China, and from China’s various different ethnicities and neighboring cultures. The artists do this using classical Chinese dance, a highly expressive and ancient dance form known for being especially technically challenging.
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive traditional Chinese culture through performing arts and share it with the world.
“The orchestra was outstanding,” John continued. “We could hear quite well. Particularly, [the erhu] … that came through very well. And I was surprised because I’ve seen one and played one, and they’re very soft normally. But it came through loud and clear.”
Kai Xi is the erhu virtuoso touring with the Shen Yun company the Dezells saw. Shen Yun has seven touring groups that travel the world each year with an all-new show. And each year, the company’s artistic director composes all of the music. Kai Xi played a piece titled “Roaming Without a Care.”
Kerin drew a connection between the deep feeling of sympathy she experienced in Shen Yun and the musical compositions for its live orchestra that blends Eastern and Western instruments.
“First of all, I thought the performers were exceptional, and I thought the music brought out a lot of feelings of sympathy for what was happening to the country,” she said. “And it made you feel sympathetic as to what was going on.”
Shen Yun is not allowed to perform in China today because its ruling regime is hostile toward traditional Chinese culture, and even persecutes followers of China’s ancient spiritual practices. Falun Dafa is one such practice that combines meditation and moral principles and whose followers are especially at risk of violence, abduction, and torture in detention. This happens because the regime feels beliefs like those pose a threat to its legitimacy and power. Shen Yun depicts this tragic reality through some of its dances, which is where the sympathy and feelings arose from in Kerin.
She added that this isn’t just a beautiful performance, but there is a deeper meaning as well, one meant for the whole world.
“You could understand there was conflict going on towards the middle and sort of towards the end of the show. And it was meant to bring this out into the open so that other people can understand what’s going on,” she said.
China is a deeply spiritual culture at its heart. It was once known as “The Divine Land” and as Shen Yun tries to resurrect this culture, it acknowledges and carries on such traditions as belief in the divine, legends about the Creator, and wisdom about what happens when we choose good over evil.
Kerin recognized a good message in Shen Yun, while John expressed his admiration about learning something new and what it means.
“I thought it was very, it was new to know how the belief system in a deity was oppressed by the communist regime,” he said. “And it still happens, and the message was, that I received, is that it doesn’t matter, they may oppress actions, but the sentiment and the belief system survives.”
Kerin’s biggest takeaway from Shen Yun is “that I don’t want to be a part of a communist community.” The couple were in agreement about how fortunate they felt to live in a free society.
The business owners had some final messages for the dancers and artists themselves. The couple reiterated that they appreciated Shen Yun’s efforts to bring China’s true culture to the rest of society.
“Oh, that they were great,” Kerin said.
“They were phenomenal,” John chimed in. “How incredible, when they did the somersaults, how they flipped over without the use of their hands was pretty spectacular.”
With reporting by Weiyong and Brett Featherstone.
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