Interfaith VP Happy That Shen Yun Entertains as It Educates

PHOENIX—Throughout time, artists have sought inspiration from the divine in order to imbue their work with the most moving feelings and sublime beauty possible.

Shen Yun Performing Arts out of New York continues this tradition and in March 2020, one of its seven touring companies took its renowned classical Chinese dance performance to Phoenix to share divinely-inspired storytelling dances and songs with Arizona residents.

James Casey is one such audience member who took in Shen Yun on March 7, 2020, at the Phoenix Orpheum and was inspired by the spirituality and goodness he saw in the production. Casey has served as the vice president on the board of directors for Arizona Interfaith and brought to bear his familiarity with one traditional Chinese faith in particular—Falun Dafa—that he greatly respects and that he spotted in Shen Yun.

“Phenomenal. Phenomenal,” was his response to his Shen Yun experience as a whole. “I personally practice Tai-Chi most of my life and Taekwondo. All of the moves are in the dance. But I’ve also studied dance. There [in Shen Yun] is an amazing performance of [dance], gymnastics, and martial arts. It’s all blended as dance. This is my second time. This is the best so far I’ve seen,” he said.

A little-known fact is that classical Chinese dance is actually the historical precursor to gymnastics and is where many of gymnastics’ tumbling techniques originate from.

“[Shen Yun] is extremely spiritual. It’s nice how they tie the spiritual in with the dance movements and the message,” Casey said.

Traditional Chinese culture, which Shen Yun seeks to revive, is a deeply spiritual culture to begin with. It contains profound spiritual practices such as Buddhism, Daoism, and Falun Dafa, an ancient meditation practice centered around truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance and five energy-strengthening exercises.

“Falun Dafa is all about spreading good in our world. Unfortunately, they’ve been persecuted in China—and most people don’t know that—for their organs because followers of Falun Dafa are very healthy people.”

Casey did not only just learn about these unfortunate events from Shen Yun’s performance, which includes short vignettes that depict the persecution Casey mentioned. Casey has had more brushes with Falun Dafa and its followers than most due to his interfaith work. And, in fact, Shen Yun’s artists themselves practice Falun Dafa, and say they find inner peace, increased strength, and better performance skills from the practice.

“I am in sales, but my volunteer work is in interfaith. I have been in the board of directors for Arizona Interfaith as a vice president. We represent 26 faith groups. One of our faith groups is Falun Dafa, so I am very familiar with Falun Dafa,” Casey added.

Casey could not pick just one aspect of Shen Yun that he enjoyed the most.

“I can’t say one specific part. I mean the costuming is incredible. And the way they used props, just all the props, long sleeves, and how they worked that into the dance performance and choreography. It’s just beauty. It’s colorful. It’s invigorating. It’s inspiring. It just makes you feel good,” he said.

“It’s wonderful because you can see the story within the dance,” he added.

Finally, Casey’s interfaith leadership background allowed him to appreciate the effect Shen Yun is having on a broader scale. “I think it’s wonderful what this organization or this dance troupe is doing. Because not only are they entertaining, but they are educating as well.”

With reporting by Yawen Hung and Brett Featherstone.

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