As the world renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts displays the glory of China’s 5,000 year culture before it was ruined after the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) came to power in 1949, one Ukrainian-American drew a parallel between the plight facing the company’s dancers and the risk of her home country losing its identity and culture after the smoke from the Russian Federation’s “special military operation” clears.
Olga Polodiuk attended the March 17 show at New York’s Lincoln Center with her boyfriend, Israel Machuca, where she expressed her feelings that the dance pieces depicting the persecution that practitioners of Falun Dafa meditation suffer in mainland China at the hands of the CCP hit close to home.
“I am Ukrainian. So for me to see that there was a beautiful culture, people with their beliefs that was put down by the communist regime…” she said, adding that although she was particularly moved by Shen Yun’s depictions of China’s traditional and authentic dynastic culture because it showed “how after so long it’s still alive,” she couldn’t help but feel, “But now it just brings up fear in my heart that that can happen to us.”
“And I really hope that it won’t,” she said.
Hardship behind beauty
On the Shen Yun website, the company is open about the fact that it was established in 2006 by, and is composed of, practitioners of Falun Dafa (法輪大法), a qigong meditation practice with five simple exercises, including a classical sitting meditation, that is based on the universal principle of Zhen-Shan-Ren (真善忍), or Truth-Benevolence-Forbearance.
In 1999, former CCP leader Jiang Zemin initiated a nationwide persecution campaign against the practice, subjecting Falun Dafa not only to total suppression and denigration by the full force of the Party’s state-apparatus, but its practitioners to torture, rape, murder, and even organ harvesting, all in the name of attempting to force adherents to renounce their belief.
To this day, the campaign of suppression and persecution persists in mainland China as the 95-year-old Jiang contests against current leader Xi Jinping for control of the Party from behind the scenes.
The Our Story page of the company’s website explains that spiritual faith in the practice is the foundation for the artistic and technical achievements for each member, “In the past, artists looked to the divine for inspiration. They would meditate and seek virtue. They believed that to create art that uplifts, they must first cultivate goodness.”
“Today, Shen Yun’s artists follow this noble tradition. Their source of inspiration is the spiritual discipline known as Falun Dafa…Alongside their rigorous training, the artists meditate together, and require of themselves self-discipline and selflessness,” the company stated.
“This is one reason why audiences feel there is something different about Shen Yun.”
Olga said that her heart was deeply moved after “seeing that Shen Yun still preserved it [traditional Chinese culture] no matter what.”
“It’s unbelievable how all this cultural experience is preserved by these beautiful people, and it’s not being destroyed, and they are sharing it with us.”
She added that her boyfriend Israel, who she runs a leatherworking company called Izzy Leathers alongside, introduced her to the show, “I’ve never heard of them even though I’ve lived in the city for eight years. We’ve been together for three years. He showed me a video and I said ‘we should go.’”
Polodik said she feels, “So happy to be a part of it and to experience it for ourselves.”
Israel, likewise, expressed the feeling of a blooming inner world, “I feel great. I have like this well of emotions, really.”
He also expressed his deep admiration for the performers’ technical dance abilities, which draw traditional roots from ancient martial arts practices, “I’m also a big fan of martial arts. You can feel it, you can see it, and you can tell that there’s thousands of hours of practice that goes into every single show.”
“I just have all these feelings that you kind of want to smile, or cry, you get this feeling of happiness. It’s actually pretty amazing.”
Machuca added, “You don’t have to be a dancer or a person that is into ballet or anything. You can just sit down and watch it and enjoy and learn and feel so many good things while you’re doing it.”