The dramatic, vivid marketing of the Shen Yun live dance performances have become commonplace in many urban areas. The current theme of this successful performing arts company is ‘China Before Communism’ with overt pressure to the political structure of their beloved country. Shen Yun is, unsurprisingly, banned in China. Chinese embassies across the world warn the public to stay away from a show they call “a tool of the cult and anti-China propaganda”. Yet, according to one article, the demand in America continues to be substantial with over $22 million in annual revenue.
This year, in the state of Georgia, the Chinese performing arts company chose Savannah and Atlanta for January 2022 shows. Children implored their parents to take them and adults seeking a classy live performance shelled out for tickets, starting at $80. The Epoch Times, a major partner of the company of Shen Yun, published an opinion piece on the recent Jacksonville, FL renditions. Georgia citizens had similar reviews.
When calling in for Savannah tickets, one family reached a kind Chinese agent who informed them that the Wednesday performance was nearly sold out with only five seats remaining, which could be confirmed online. Over $300 later, the ‘last’ seats were secured. With a few questions, the woman explained that she was part of the founding team for the Epoch Times food section, which was impressive. She encouraged further reading on the purpose of Shen Yun, which is specifically the Falun Gong religion.
On the evening of the event, the family joined the line entering Savannah’s Johnny Mercer Theater. In casual conversation, they met a talkative woman who had studied abroad in China. While in the country, she clearly recalled the suppression of events, and traumas to the Chinese people, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, which the Communist Party calls the ‘June Fourth Incident.’ She said, “No one would talk about it.” Interestingly, one of the only remaining remembrance and free speech monuments to this event is in Hong Kong at a university, and was recently removed, reported the Zen Soo Associated Press. She confirmed the party continues to murderously abuse its people. That experience, and her concern for the oppression of her Chinese friends, brought her to Shen Yun.
The City of Savannah, who owns the theater, attempted to enforce Mayor Van Johnson’s ‘mask mandate’ in order to gain entry. The mandate includes two references to any type of subjective health conditions impacting mask-wearing, which the security team did not offer to anyone, perhaps to gain more ‘compliance’ or because they were ignorant of it. It was the responsibility of the citizen to mention it; people mostly sheepishly complied. The entry was extremely slow, and many people were late for the performance because of it.
Inside the theater lobby, there was a beautiful photo booth and tables full of colorful Shen Yun souvenirs for sale. Calendars, ornaments, apparel and purses bore the logo and images of the elegant dancers. Several of the items promoted Falun Gong religious ideas as well, which the performance introduced to the audience in the form of heavenly characters and Buddha. Once in the theater, much to the surprise of the attending family, the seats were not nearly full. In fact, more than 20% of the seats were unoccupied.
The performance was mastered and guided by two professional hosts. One was a clean cut, bilingual American man. And the other was a stately Chinese woman in a beautiful gown. They introduced each scene with a few poignant sentences, and then he offered her his arm for exit from the stage. It was all quite lovely. As they and the colorful program explained, “People had formerly sought harmony among Heaven, Earth, and humankind, revered the divine, and followed the course of nature. But, in 1949 the Chinese Communist Party came to power. It saw this spiritual heritage as an ideological threat and for decades tried to destroy these traditions. It nearly succeeded.”
Then, in 2006, a group of Chinese artists came together in New York united a by a mission: to revive authentic Chinese culture. They formed Shen Yun, which is a nonprofit and independent of any government. They proclaim their troupe has brought this culture back from the brink of extinction.
The stage came alive with what they called China’s old “Land of the Divine,” reflecting the belief that its glorious culture was brought down from above. Innovative 3D projection moved characters from the live stage to being incorporated into digital screens and then back again to the stage in the ‘Men’s Classical Chinese Dance.’ In the ‘Water Sleeves’ dance, svelte ladies in flowing, trailing sleeves mimicking the rippling fluidity of water floated across the stage. The ‘Monkey Dance’ was a memorable story of a clever, bold, and uppity Monkey who is crowned king of all apes. A formidable heavenly army was deployed to apprehend him from his mischief, but only Buddha could finally handle him.
One of the most beautiful dances, ‘Plum Blossom in Spring’ contained what seemed like millions of petals integrated into scenery and spinning dance props. The program described that in Chinese culture, the plum blossom is a “symbol of courage and resilience, braving winter and flourishing into spring.” In this piece, dancers depict the “flower’s pink and white petals swirling in the breeze conjuring an idyllic image of a garden in full bloom.”
Insanity During the End of Days
The production took an unforgettably dark turn in the scene called ‘Insanity During the End of Days’ that led to a noticeably aghast audience and even weeping. The scene included communist police arresting two young women for practicing Falun Dafa meditations with their ‘golden book’ in an open square. Next, they dragged them to the ‘Police Hospital’ and a deal was made with some surgeons for one of the girls, who was unconscious and covered with a cloth. Her friend, noticeably injured, was hysterical. The surgeons then emerged with the covered body of the girl and her heart in an organ transport box with a bright image of a dripping heart on the side. At that moment, the audience gasped, and some, who more intimately understand the pain of communism, broke out in quiet sobs. Even more tragically, one of the surgeons realized that he had just conducted a live organ harvesting of his own dear daughter.
This scene depicted a dark secret in China today. In broad daylight, peaceful people are arrested and tortured for their beliefs. And, these people are killed for their organs, as the Epoch Times has reported for years, as in this September 2021 article on medical genocide for profit and a recent convening of World Summit on Combating and Preventing Forced Organ Harvesting.
At intermission, the family spoke with two South Carolinian ladies, Black Americans, sitting near them. One had received tickets to Shen Yun for Christmas and was more open to speaking. She expressed the horror she felt in her soul when the surgeon realized he had murdered his daughter in the live harvest of her heart. Other conversation centered around their mutual Christian calling to fight evil, such as what communist governments cause. They shared a spirit of common concern for America, and the hope of preserving the nation for their children.
The final scenes included a beautiful ‘Ladies’ Classical Chinese Dance,’ which displayed the dancers’ yun, or reflection of their inner beauty. Linda Wang played a piece on the ancient erhu instrument, accompanied by Jingya Mahlen on the piano. The Chinese dance story of ‘Three Hundred Years in One Day’ focused on a predestination love story that transcended time. Confucian ideas appeared in ‘A School Story’ about the training of pupils in benevolence, righteousness, and propriety. In an eery vocal piece, the singer states, “Our divinity is prisoner to doctrines of atheism and evolution. Keep good and kind, resisting the wayward trends. Stay true to tradition as the world declines, and the Divine shall remain right beside…”
The final performance called ‘The Display of Great Compassion’ reminded the audience that “ancient cultures around the world have passed down a legend of a time when core human virtues like integrity, compassion, and faith would be cast aside and society would be turned on its head.” The program asserted that “This era is, these ancient legends warn, a time of great peril.” Further, China’s society is replete with modern distractions. However complicated, we can choose to honorably recognize Falun Dafa practitioners who continue their ancient traditions based in virtue. These people, persecuted for their faith, choose to continue to engage the battle between good and evil with “compassion opening a path to renewal and hope.”
The audience was left to consider what timeless traditions, truth, and beauty are worth pursuing, and at what price.