Thoughts on Diversity
One of the many remarkable qualities of working for Shen Yun is the feeling that you are an integral part of the global community. Although the majority of the organization is ethnically Chinese, members of Shen Yun call five of the seven continents home. One might ride up in a hotel elevator with four Shen Yun performers from, say, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, and Australia, and then ride back down with artists from Japan, Poland, France, and Korea. This diversity a benefit I am annually reminded of when we tour around the world.
As we all enjoy a close working relationship, seeing family members of coworkers as we tour is like having extended family wherever we go. Need a guided tour of the city in which we’re performing? We’re likely to find an expert within our own group. Whether it’s the need for a non-touristy place to dine or locating a picture-worthy point of interest, help is usually just a conversation away.
The advantages of cultural diversity, however, extend far beyond tourism assistance. It has been an invaluable asset in bridging the content of our show with other cultures. Having internal cultural ambassadors, for example, enables our songs’ translated lyrics to remain faithful to the original Chinese meaning and message, rather than using a perfect surface translation that would otherwise be the case with a translator outside the company. Humorous lines spoken by our emcees can likewise be tailored to the region—I distinctly remember a joke that usually mentions “iPhones” changing to “Blackberrys” when we performed in Waterloo, Ontario (home of RIM, makers of the Blackberry).
The cultural diversity of Shen Yun is also beneficial in allowing all of us to better understand the audiences for whom we perform. What may be considered a reserved reception by American audience standards might be regarded as reflection, respect and appreciation in another cultural setting. These very real cultural differences that we face as we tour around the world have the potential to unnerve even the most tenured performer. With a few words of reassurance from our “local expert,” these hindrances are easily cast away.
January 26, 2011