’Tis the Season, Tho’ Yet the Season
I can’t believe 2020 is almost over. Especially since it took the first half of the year to get used to the idea that we were actually in the ’20s. But now we’re counting down to another New Year, I must force myself to accept it—with good cheer that the holiday season is here!
Since March, life has been anything but normal for us, as it has been for you and the entire world. For the first couple of months, it felt so strange not to be onstage dancing or traveling from country to country, and instead back home because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
But everyone’s been hanging on. Week by week, then month by month. My fellow dancers have been keeping their spirits up and pushing themselves to train, even though the company can’t operate normally. And all the while, we’re pining for the new performance season to be announced. Whenever that will be.
Despite everything abnormal about 2020, one thing in our lives is now normal again. But I mean normal as in—it’s abnormal for us.
Namely, this year the holidays do not overlap with the beginning of our performance season. For the first time since our 2006 founding, the members of Shen Yun Performing Arts will be spending the winter holidays not on tour. Not on a bus rolling down the interminable highway to California. Not living out of a suitcase in the second or third different city of the week. Not hearing "Jingle Bells" or "Silent Night" only at roadside rest stations and hotel lobbies. Not super-focused on the first few weeks of the all-new program, and observing the holidays as a side thought, using Christmas and New Year’s as travel days to get to the next performance city.
Under normal circumstances, the day after Thanksgiving, our lighting engineers take it upon themselves to set up holiday lights and trees around Shen Yun headquarters. However, as soon as the decorations are up, we jump into dress rehearsals, then final preparations for tour. And we squeeze in gift exchanges between all the busyness, since we won’t see our friends in the other Shen Yun companies until next May.
By the end of December, each company would already have covered a couple of cities and gotten into the swing of touring again. But we try to celebrate together when possible. In many cities, the show’s local sponsors and organizers take time away from their own families to tend to us itinerants. Once they threw us a barbecue party on the beach. (Florida.) But usually, they reserve a conference room in the hotel and fill it with a sumptuous buffet and endless party snacks. Then for the night, everyone in the company becomes a performer, participant, and audience member in one. Our orchestra members will put on short chamber pieces and Christmas classics. We come up with goofy physical challenges, like no-hands Oreo eating competitions where the cookie begins balanced on your forehead. Musical chairs with live accompaniment is a must-have, because it’s entertaining but also because conference rooms are abundant in chairs. And impromptu acting games like charades is always an uproar—hey, it’s an all-performer cast!
Some of my most unforgettable on-tour holidays were more unorthodox: Once, towards the end of an all-day drive the bus began malfunctioning. Our driver pulled into a big truck stop. Then we waited and waited. The sun had gone done, but we were down south and the weather was mild. After a while, we restless dancers were all over the parking lot. People started kicking and doing tumbling flips by the light of the streetlamps. In sneakers and jeans, the guys used their Herding on the Mongolian Plains dance to give us a (no less spirited) Herding at the Trucker Service Station. Hours went by, but there wasn’t a single complaint about being stranded on the asphalt island for Christmas Eve; we all wanted to keep the mood positive. But when the bus was finally fixed and we staggered into the hotel, it was the wee hours of Christmas Day and I couldn’t be happier to crawl under the covers.
So now you know why having a normal winter holiday will be something novel for us.
Though unfortunately ’tis not yet the Shen Yun performance season, ’tis still the season to be jolly. No matter what we’re doing or where we are, the heart of the holiday season is to give thanks for everything we have, especially our family and friends, to reflect on the year past, and to prepare ourselves to step into the New Year with optimism and determination.
From everyone at Shen Yun, we wish you a safe and happy winter holiday. Keep warm, inside and out. We can’t wait to perform for you again!