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Louisiana Families Describe Poignant Experience at Shen Yun

BATON ROGUE, La.—After Breanna Campbell saw Shen Yun Performing Arts last year, she was set on seeing the premier classical Chinese dance company once more the following season, bringing her young son this time around. During the year’s wait, Ms. Campbell followed Shen Yun on social media, watching together with her son the artists’ behind-the-scenes videos that highlighted “the strength and the beauty and the diligence that all these performers, whether they’re dancers, musicians, choreographers.”

“I’m so glad that we came back a second time. I feel like I’ve gotten to see something entirely new. I know that the show is always made new every year, and so I feel very, very blessed to get to see it, very grateful,” Ms. Campbell said at the Baton Rouge River Center Theater after the Jan. 21 matinee.

The matinee was the first of New York-based Shen Yun’s 2023 season performances in Louisiana, and both Saturday shows had sold out, prompting a last minute addition of one performance on Sunday, Jan. 22.

It was a learning opportunity for both mother and child. Ms. Campbell said that her 5-year-old was able to follow along the storylines from ancient Chinese classics. In a vignette out of Journey to the West, he was delighted with the appearance of an “inter-dimensional lion,” and in a piece touching on events in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, he was “excited to see that act of heroism” that played out across Shen Yun’s patented set technology. Meanwhile, she gained deeper understanding into China past and present.

“I truly find the most moving stories to be the ones about the persecution that people are facing in China and the forced organ harvesting that many people are having to undergo. And as a physician, it’s very moving for me to see those stories. But I do also enjoy the myth-stories that are fun and get to show a different side and they’re so engaging for the children, too,” said Ms. Campbell.

Ms. Campbell, an infectious disease physician, pointed out that one of the performances touched on the modern day COVID events happening in China. Despite the tragic nature of these real-life events, in Shen Yun’s portrayal she saw hope for a brighter future.

Ms. Campbell explained that she—like many people around the world—only realized what was happening in China after COVID hit, namely, the actions of the ruling Chinese Communist Party had endangered lives around the whole world through their inhumane actions, including forced organ harvesting of live prisoners of conscience, often people of faith imprisoned for their belief.

“That was one of the ways that I first learned more about the forced organ harvesting that was happening. So I think, in a way, hopefully COVID helped to shine some light on those practices, and hopefully will lead to more changes and more liberation for the Chinese people,” Ms. Campbell said.

“I think it is incredibly brave to show that on stage and to bring that reality so that we can see it and know it as well,” she said. “I think it must be a terrible thing that those physicians in China are forced to do, or the medical staff that is engaged with the forced organ harvesting. I imagine they must be in a terrible place as well, but it is very moving and very hard to know that that is happening.”

“I think it is beautiful that the Shen Yun choreographers and dancers and musicians are able to bring that to the stage in a way that showcases the humanity of the people who are going through that persecution, the strength and the bravery that their families have to carry on after things like that,” she said.

“And I find that so blessed that we get to see that, know that and have the opportunity to speak up, and to hopefully help to pray for those people and to hopefully change things for the future.”

“The piece ends so optimistically and so joyfully. It was something truly really great to see. And even though the piece is so emotional and so hard to watch, it ends in such a beautiful way. So, it’s wonderful to get to see,” she said.

One of the persecuted faiths in China is Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, which teaches the three principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. This is depicted in some of Shen Yun’s storytelling dances, as in the piece Ms. Campbell described this year. Many of Shen Yun’s artists practice Falun Gong, and have loved ones still in China who face such persecution.

“I think that by showing the beauty of these other practices and of something that was practiced in China for so long, it helps to underscore the shared humanity that we all have, that these beliefs are universal in so many ways,” she said. “It’s beautiful to see things that we already believe, and we already practice, shared across other cultures, and to take inspiration from the Shen Yun performance.”

“I think that the beauty, the truth, the honor, and things that were much needed nowadays, that those wonderful aspects of the faith and of the practice and of the culture are something that we can take inspiration from and take strength from and move forward with,” she said.

To the artists, she wished to say: “[I’m] so appreciative of what you all have done, and the opportunity that you’re giving me to teach my son,” she said. “I am so grateful for everything, all the work you all have done.”

Also in the audience was Corey Grimley, attorney, who saw the performance with his two young daughters.

“Our girls are dancers and and they loved it,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything like this. The color, the choreography was beyond anything that we’ve ever seen. My girls would agree. They were just in awe over what they saw.”

For Mr. Grimley, Shen Yun’s art exalted virtue and the divine.

“The virtues that they expressed, I mean, we have to see virtue in all things and you really saw that. You really saw the true, the good and the beautiful,” he said. “We really saw that on stage tonight.”

“I think that it is only through the type of beauty that we’ve seen that, and truth that we’ve seen that people are given hope,” he said.

And hope is sorely needed in the world today, as Mr. Grimley explained.

“We saw people’s hope being really, really hurt during the pandemic and they’re really not knowing where to look. And when you’ve removed God from being the place where people look, they’re left in desperation. They’re left in depression and they’re not able to be lifted up during suffering.”

“Suffering is supposed to forge virtue, but if you don’t have that, be anchored in the Divine and some calling, you really don’t have anywhere to go,” Mr. Grimley said.

In the traditional culture he saw in Shen Yun’s performance, he saw hope, truth, and a reminder of the purpose of suffering, and a reminder of the Divine.

“The truth will set us free. And it’s only through truth that we will have true freedom and as long as they try to oppress that, we’re not gonna see true human flourishing. We need to really seek to restore all of the classical cultures around the world,” he said. “We need to see truth in all things. We need to see God in all things. And you see that is only when we look to the Divine, we look to God, that we will truly be liberated.”

“[The art] is an unabashed expressive way of showing the Creator and how He has worked in our lives and how He loves us and how He wants the good for us and wants to ultimately call us back to Him,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Corey Grimley enjoyed Shen Yun at the Baton Rouge River Center Theater on Jan. 21. (NTD)

Reporting by NTD.

The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of Shen Yun Performing Arts. We have covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.

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