Shen Yun Receives a Hearty Welcome in the Heart of the Deep South
MOBILE, Ala.—Big hearts and deep feelings—the American South is known for both. So when Shen Yun Performing Arts came to Mobile, Alabama on Feb. 11, 2020, attorney and law firm owner Joseph Kulakowski recognized important aspects and principles in the performance that led him to one very important theory about the fate of the heartfelt and profound traditional Chinese culture.
“[Shen Yun] was extraordinary,” he said. “The depth of the story about the Chinese culture, the creation, their faith, their beliefs, their concepts of good and evil. I thought that the underlying theme, that these people of principle and faith were being crushed by the communists … But I have a theory that because of faith, the roots, they will survive.” Kulakowski attended Shen Yun at the Mobile Civic Center Theater.
New York-based Shen Yun is attempting to bring back China’s 5,000-year-old culture from the brink of extinction, despite the fact that the Communist Party of China (CCP) is determined to wipe it out. To the regime, China’s traditions pose a threat to its legitimacy and power.
The persecution that spiritual believers face today in China at the hands of the CCP is depicted on stage in Shen Yun in heart-wrenching scenes. But these stories leave people with hope since they depict real-life responses to the persecution that are full of compassion, perseverance, and faith.
Kulakowski loved the artistry in Shen Yun. But he had one main hope for the company and the Chinese people at the end of the day.
“I thought the story was beautiful. I thought the actors were extraordinary. But what you see with the eye and what you hear, you need to be conscious about the extraordinary musicians that you don’t see that you hear. This music is not being piped in! These are real live artists, making these sounds with these real live artists are so carefully choreographed. It’s beautiful. The colors were extraordinary. I thought it was wonderful, beautiful.”
“And I hope that the message gets through. We see these beautiful people dancing and all these wonderful athletes, but the message is what I hope comes through.”
Surviving and thriving is what Kulakowski hoped would come in the wake of Shen Yun’s efforts to revive traditional Chinese culture.
“This is the bloodstream, this is the chi. This is not something that’s passing by in modern-day,” the criminal defense attorney said in reference to the essence of China’s traditional culture. “This is what is in the veins of the Chinese people. The chi of the Chinese people. No, this will not be suppressed. The message will get through. And the Chinese people will survive. And its culture will survive,” he said.
Kulakowski said he would describe Shen Yun to others using the full range of vim and vigor available to an Alabama courtroom lawyer, and then some.
“The message extraordinaire! I was amazed. I was in awe. The talent is beyond words. I don’t have the vocabulary, I have such limited vocabulary to speak to how beautiful it was. That’s my problem. I don’t have words to describe how wonderful [Shen Yun] is,” Kulakowski said.
Art the Audience Can Participate In
Carole Maire is another Southern resident who attended Shen Yun in Mobile, Alabama, on Feb. 11, 2020, after driving across state lines from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She makes her living as an artist, from the expressiveness available in painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, and more.
“I loved the color and vibrancy and the dance movements of the [Shen Yun] dancers. And I also enjoyed the entertainment and the funny parts of the show, because they were very hilarious. And also the two-stringed instrument [erhu] … it was just beautiful! You would hardly think that an instrument that had two strings could evoke such a different variety of chords. I mean, it’s just beautiful,” Maire said.
Like Kulakowski, Maire found Shen Yun to be full of deep feelings and themes that are rife in traditional Chinese culture, and universal throughout the world.
“I could feel the emotion,” she said. “They were able to portray the emotions to their arms and their feet, and the facial expressions and their actions on the stage, so you tell what was going on whether they had even told you the story or not. And that’s very important for an artist to be able to evoke those emotions out there and have your audience participate in those.”
The beginning of Shen Yun depicts a legend passed down from ancient China about the Creator coming to earth. Maire employed her artistic sensibilities to describe this piece and how it made her feel.
“It was real interesting, you know when the fog moving in, it was kind of an ethereal sort of a feeling,” she said. “Like you were floating, kind of, and it just felt very enjoyable.”
“And it was almost as if I was there, even though I wasn’t there. I felt pulled into the whole aspect of the performance. It was just a fabulous performance. And they all moved in synchronization,” Maire said. “You could tell that they were like a family, one body, doing a joint exploration of the spiritual element that you feel. And especially when they entered, the gods that they were talking about in heaven and earth. It was just a really good feeling.”
“It was a fabulous performance, and everybody should see it. It’s just very cultural.”
With reporting by NTD Television, Sherry Dong, and Brett Featherstone.
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