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Without Shen Yun, It Would Be ‘A Huge Loss for Mankind’ 1
Having witnessed beautiful scenes during Shen Yun Performing Arts' first performance on its Midwest tour, members of the audience said they were at a loss to learn that the traditional Chinese music and dance company cannot perform in Mainland China. Located in New York, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive the essence of traditional Chinese culture that was divinely-inspired by China's thousands-year long history. Mainland China today is under the rule of the officially atheist Chinese Communist Party, which has spent decades dismantling the people's culture—including its performing arts—that took millennia to build. “It made me sad to think that [classical Chinese dance is] not practiced in China itself. But I’m so glad that there’s a group in New York City that’s bringing it back because it’s just lovely. And it would be really tragic if it wasn’t out there for the world to see because it’s just gorgeous,” said Mary Evans, a retired registered nurse, who attended DeVos Performance Hall with her husband, Jerry, a physician, on Jan. 14, 2020. “To know that thousands of years that have been in that culture, it’s sad that it’s suppressed now,” Mr. Evans said. Shen Yun tours the globe every year—adding a seventh company this year—and brings artistic expressions of ancient China to the world. With totally new choreography, costumes, digital backdrops, and music each year, audiences are treated to nearly 20 separate performances that tell of age-old customs, bits of history, and the profound legends of the country once known as the Celestial Kingdom. If not for Shen Yun, Mr. Evans would not have heard the "very moving" song sung by a soprano Min Jiang speaking of impending salvation. If not for Shen Yun, Mrs. Evans would have missed the energy of the all-male Mongolian dance. She enjoyed seeing them bring to life the nomadic horse culture which “came through in the dance.” Shen Yun in its stories also explained how traditional spiritual practices often face oppression in modern day China. Mr. Evans said: “I think the persecution of those who practice religions that the government doesn’t believe [in] is very sad. We’ve heard a lot about persecutions of the Christians and many other religions there, and it’s just so sad to see that.” The couple added they believe Shen Yun’s mission is important to salvage this divinely-inspired culture. Mr. Evans said it’s wonderful that this traditional culture could be expressed here in the freedom of the United States. “It would just be such a huge loss to mankind, I think, to not have it out there for us to see,” Mrs. Evans said. “I think it will come back, and this is part of that,” Mr. Evans said. ‘Simple and Clean’ Also in the Grand Rapids audience were the Damstra family: Randy, a private investor, his wife Julie, an artist, and Leah their daughter, of Asian ancestry, who attends high school. The Damstra family said they were most taken in by the aesthetics of the performance. Leah gave the costumes a rating of 10 out of 10, while Mrs. Damstra enjoyed the music, and Mr. Damstra noted the “elegant athleticism” of the dancers. The dances were “simple and clean,” he said. Mrs. Damstra elaborated on her husband’s thoughts. “I think they make the point really well, too, that you know, it takes us to a time that has come from a lot of simplicity, that’s really beautiful. “And [from the] divine, I think they would say, in the show,” she said. “I think it’s a reflection of the values that they have in their culture, in the [ancient] Chinese culture. It’s religious in the sense that it has this deep meaning of life and love for the land,” Mr. Damstra said. In order to present a culture steeped in divine inspiration, Shen Yun artists find inspiration in their personal spiritual connections. It is their “motivation for striving to excel, is the heart behind each movement of the dancer, and each note of the musician,” Shen Yun’s website says. As for that divine aspect, “I think that’s so built-in all of us. It’s showing something that we all have in us,” Mrs. Damstra said.