So Much Color, So Much Emotion—Shen Yun Wows in Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla.—True Chinese culture is a very rare sight. Many don’t realize that today’s prevailing culture in China is engineered by the communist party, which has been attempting to systematically destroy traditional culture for more than 60 years.
But one performing arts company is spearheading a renaissance of authentic and deeply spiritual Chinese culture: Shen Yun Performing Arts.
On Jan. 29, 2020, business owner Gajendra Hari attended Shen Yun Performing Arts in Gainesville, Florida at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. He said the experience was “so much more than I expected.”
“It was extremely beautiful,” he continued. “From scene to scene, there were so many scenes that developed the storyline. The past, the future, the present, and there were just so many emotions and all. But I just never have experienced seeing dance so well performed. It was so much color. It was so much emotion.”
New York-based Shen Yun draws from China’s 5,000 years of divinely-inspired civilization and utilizes highly-expressive classical Chinese dance to evoke profound feelings and ideas. A full orchestra accompanies the dancers and includes unique-sounding ancient instruments native to China such as the pipa and erhu. Soloists singing in the bel canto tradition, colorful costumes, and an animated backdrop complete the experience that many call breathtaking and transformative.
“I would just describe it as this amazing performance, just very, very, very, very beautiful,” Hari said. “That’s a big thing. It was aesthetically very, very beautiful. And that the quality of the performance was just expert, very expert. I felt changed by the experience, to be honest. I want to dance.”
“One thing I really liked here … the set production with the video backdrop,” he said. “I felt that was a very powerful part of the presentation. It really added a lot to the scene and the beauty. I was also really intrigued with the production, the way different scenes they have, people are like flying in from a distance or jumping off the mountain. And how they integrated the choreography of the dancers with the animation—I felt that was really effective. That was really cool.”
Shen Yun Stories Evoke Joy and Sorrow
Hari spoke about the depth of feeling he experienced from the 20 or so short stories and vignettes in Shen Yun.
“There were sadness, like watching the part where the modern practitioners were being harassed, even injured, abused by the Chinese authorities. For me, that was really sad, ’cause I know this is true. You have people that are, you know, being with their spirituality, being with their health, being with beauty, and they are being persecuted. That’s very sad,” he said.
Although Shen Yun is reviving true Chinese culture, it is not allowed to step foot in China today due to the persecution being carried out against spiritual believers and those who herald China’s ancient spiritual traditions. A Shen Yun performance includes stories about this real-life, ongoing violence that the Chinese Communist Party has been carrying out for decades.
But even those sad scenes are eventually filled with hope and compassion as the stories’ characters act out the kind and forgiving ways in which some Chinese citizens are responding to the attacks. Some of Shen Yun’s scenes portray Falun Dafa practitioners, some of the main targets of the persecution. They believe, like ancient Chinese people did, that good is rewarded and evil is punished by heaven. Falun Dafa is an ancient practice of self-refinement that includes energy-strengthening exercises and encouragement to follow moral principles.
“And then there were other scenes… many, many scenes had elements of humor,” Hari said.
“The Miraculous Flute,” and “The Novice Monks” are two narratives in Shen Yun that depict foibles and funny characters drawn from ancient Chinese culture.
“It’s just very entertaining, from start to finish. It was more than entertaining. Emotionally, it was moving, it was very soulful. Like I said, with all the different emotions,” Hari said.
Other pieces include stories about the Creator and divine beings. The way authentic Chinese culture has for millennia, Shen Yun Performing Arts recognizes that the secular and the sacred are inseparable in culture and life. Divine beings are depicted on stage throughout the show, as well as those on earth who wish to follow in their footsteps: Buddhist monks, Daoist believers, and Falun Dafa practitioners.
Hari saw the commonalities between Falun Dafa, which he viewed as a religion, and his own background.
“I practice ancient spirituality, so to me, there is…you know, God is God, spirit is spirit, people are people,” he said. “There may be specifics about this specific religion in China that I don’t know about, but I understand the general principles. Just relative to my spiritual heritage.”
With reporting by Yawen Hung and Brett Featherstone.
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