Shen Yun: Bringing To Life an Ancient Art

Shen Yun Performing Arts  is a performing-arts company from New York City that celebrates traditional Chinese folk and story-based dance. Made up of over 200 dancers, the company tours 130 cities around the world bringing to life ancient stories and traditions.

“As cultivators, Shen Yun artists’ have different starting points and creative concepts—we seek to strengthen what is good and pure, and we use traditional elements in our choreography,” explained Yungchia Chen, a choreographer for Shen Yun, in a press release. “Shen Yun is a world leader in terms of reviving traditional culture. That’s our mission, and the basis for everything we do. We want to send a message that gods exist, that what we do has consequences—good is rewarded and evil is punished, and that there’s hope for the future.”

The show was started in 2006 by members of a Chinese spiritual practice called Falun Gong. They wanted to encapsulate and celebrate over 5000 years of Chinese traditions and culture, which they feel are being destroyed by the political and cultural state of modern China. Local Falun Gong associations around the world host the performance, which has grown dramatically since its inception.

The group is composed of three performing arts companies, namely The New York Company, the International Company, and The Touring Company. The dancers perform what is known as classical Chinese dance, which is known for incorporating a lot of acrobatic and tumbling techniques. The flowing dresses and intricate costumes worn by the performers are also a wonder for audiences. They reflect various Chinese ethnicities and characters, soldiers, and court dancers.

Additionally, the dances pull on ancient Chinese narratives such as the Legends of Mulan and Outlaws of the March. They also incorporate the stories of Falun Gong practitioners in the modern Chinese world.

“In trying to revive traditional culture, we have to comply with its values and thinking. Our ‘returning to the traditional’ can’t just be for show. The ancient Chinese had great faith and respect for the divine. As modern people, we have to change the way we think, and purify our minds bit by bit,” adds Yungchia Chen.

To learn more about Shen Yun, please visit their website.

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