NEW YORK—“Will you be fighting kung-flu there?” “Does everyone at the theater get a corona to drink?” “Is the show still on?”—Shen Yun social media and hotlines have been buzzing with questions, some tongue-in-cheek and some deadly serious, about the recent coronavirus outbreak in China. What most such commenters don’t realize is that Shen Yun performers aren’t coming from China and performers never even set foot in China.
According to a recent statement from Shen Yun, “Performers have not been to China in years, have not had recent direct contact with people from China, and in fact Shen Yun is not even allowed to perform in China.”
Thus, on the 2020 Shen Yun World Tour, not a single show has been canceled and Shen Yun has faced no quarantining. In fact, in many places, additional performances have been added, according to Shen Yun’s ticketing websites.
The performing arts company clarifies, “Shen Yun’s performers—dancers, musicians, as well as technical crew—all live and train in New York. As individuals, they are also banned from traveling to China, long ago having been blacklisted by the Chinese government.”
A Chinese Show Not from China?
This begs the question: How could a show known worldwide for celebrating Chinese culture not actually come from China and even be blacklisted in China?
This is because Shen Yun performers all practice a traditional meditation known as Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, which has been banned by the communist regime in China since 1999. For performers, there is a deep connection between the traditional spirituality they put into practice and the traditional art form they are reviving and presenting to the world.
History supports this view as well. Before the Communist Party seized power over 70 years ago, China was a land where Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism flourished, where the Emperor was known as literally “the Son of Heaven,” and where society followed “Heaven’s Will.” Meditation was common among intellectuals and China’s Confucian educational system was focused on the cultivation of virtue and morality above all else—a far cry from the class struggle and atheism promoted in China today.
In an interview with Taste of Life magazine, Shen Yun Principal Dancer Evangeline Zhu said this spiritual and moral foundation has been neglected in her homeland. “‘Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and trustworthiness [traditional Confucian virtues] may still be written in the textbooks, but modern Chinese people don’t really respect the values of traditional culture.”
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Shen Yun Principal Dancer Piotr Huang said this is connection between spirituality and art is key. “When you understand the habits or values of people from ancient China, the feelings evoked by your dancing are not the same,” he said.
The modern Chinese educational system regards China’s traditions, such as belief in God and heaven, as “feudal superstition,” Ms. Zhu said. Also, ancient China is often portrayed as a bleak and oppressive society just waiting for revolution. Ms. Zhu disagrees with this characterization. From reading classical literature and histories, she feels ancient China was a wonderfully vibrant society. This is something she wants to share with the world.
“When we’re onstage dancing in locations around the world, I feel a very righteous, very pure energy that is incomparably strong. I want to pass on this power to everyone,” Ms. Zhu said.
And pass on she will. Unimpeded by the spread of the coronavirus, Shen Yun performances around the world are continuing with a packed schedule until the end of May.
“We look forward to sharing the performances with you!” states Shen Yun.