LONDON—At the heart of every Shen Yun performance is classical Chinese dance, a uniquely expressive art form that’s been passed down for many years.
“I was very interested to learn that a lot of the moves that we regard as being modern gymnastic moves used in the Olympics, actually date back many thousands of years to ancient Chinese tradition,” said Michael Cooper, a lawyer who watched Shen Yun at London’s Eventim Apollo on April 24.
“[Shen Yun] was very informative and entertaining at the same time,” he said.
Through energetic flips and graceful movements, Shen Yun artists tell stories from ancient times to the modern day.
Suppressed in China
Formed by Chinese artists in New York in 2006, Shen Yun has a mission to revive China’s authentic culture, which was almost destroyed under communist rule.
According to the program book, Shen Yun artists draw inspiration from the spiritual discipline Falun Dafa and strive to live by the principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance. But since the late 1990s, Falun Dafa practitioners in China have faced harsh persecution.
One story that depicts this modern day persecution on stage is called “Goodness in the Face of Evil.” In the piece, a girl who practices Falun Dafa is jailed and subjected to forced organ harvesting. But in the end, her goodness triumphs over evil.
Cooper said he knew about Falun Dafa before seeing Shen Yun, as he had come across peaceful protests by practitioners of the spiritual discipline at the British Museum and outside London’s Chinese Embassy, where a silent vigil has been in place since 2002. He said he had previously signed a petition calling for China to stop persecuting the practice at both sites.
“I think it’s an awful shame to know what’s going on to a group of people who are gentle, kind, don’t pose any threat to anyone else,” he said.
For people who had never heard of the suppression of Falun Dafa in China, he felt Shen Yun depicted it so “it was up to you to make your mind up about it.”
“I happen to know about them from the petitions but I’m sure the majority of people that come here didn’t know but now do know,” he said. “It’s one of the few occasions when Falun Dafa can get their voice known and their message known in a very gentle, harmonious, peaceful, and entertaining way.”
‘It Was All Excellent’
Another aspect of the performance that Cooper was intrigued with was the musical instrument the erhu. Sometimes called the Chinese violin, the erhu dates back 4,000 years, and has just two strings.
“I’d never heard that instrument before or seen it, and the sound that she produced out of what looked to be a very simple instrument was absolutely superb. It almost took me onto another plane,” he said. “That was one of the highlights, but really it was all excellent,” Cooper said.
In some scenes, Shen Yun artists appear to fly into the heavens as they perform in perfect harmony with a live orchestra and an animated backdrop, a feature of the performance that impressed Cooper.
“Everything was perfect,” he said.
With reporting by NTD Television and Jane Gray.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.