Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Shen Yun Performing Arts: An American Success Story Inspires Growing Companies

How culture improves business — a Shen Yun case study.

By
Disclosure: Our goal is to feature products and services that we think you'll find interesting and useful. If you purchase them, Entrepreneur may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners.

If you're looking to unleash brilliant ideas and build a tight-knit team in your workplace, forget about corporate retreats and trust falls. Something far more economical and effective is to take your team to see Shen Yun.

Shen Yun

It's what Chen Meixian did. Meixian is the CEO of Innovision FlexTech Corp in Taiwan, and for the first nine and a half years, her company was in the red. Then she saw a performance that renewed her inspiration and turned everything around.

The business took off in the half-year leading up to the company's 10-year anniversary.

To celebrate with her staff, she gave everyone a day off and treated her 60 employees with tickets to what she called the "world's number 1 show" and shared the inspiration she experienced with the whole team. And what Meixian gained was priceless. "Shen Yun's team execution on every aspect and level of the show demonstrates their strong teamwork," she said.

Shen Yun Performing Arts exemplifies how hundreds of people can work together seamlessly when aligned on a common mission, and executives worldwide and across industries have taken note. Leaders recognize that company culture is an intangible but mighty force driving some of the most successful entrepreneurial ventures.

The classical Chinese dance company was formed in 2006 by a small group of elite Chinese artists in New York with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture and share it with the world. The company has since grown from one to eight equally large companies touring the world and has graced the stage in over 200 cities globally.

Shen Yun's exemplary display of teamwork.

Audiences are almost immediately impressed by the dancers' seamless synchronicity. Then they realize the orchestra is live — perfectly aligned with each movement. The ultimate surprise comes when the patented backdrop starts interacting with the dancers. The strong teamwork demonstrated between all these moving parts is similar to different teams within an organization: if everyone can work together, they can work wonders.

"It was absolutely perfect," said Eric Christianson, CEO of Nutrient. "I've never seen such perfection in the number of dancers all at the same time — the movements, the detail, all the way down to just the placement of the hands, the way that the cloth on the uniforms and the dance costumes, were also in perfect harmony. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. It was amazing."

"You have to come and see for yourself because it can't be described by someone unless you see it," said Rudy Revak, founder of Global Ventures Partners. "The dancing is so phenomenal…And anytime you see people that are so professional, and they do their talent so well. It's always great to watch the best of the best."

How can a team work together cohesively?

When everyone's in sync with the company's mission and core values, they form a team greater and stronger than the sum of its parts. And an organization's core values are the centerpiece of its culture.

In Shen Yun, Meixian could clearly see the values of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.

"I have absorbed a lot of positive energy from the show, and I believe this will have a positive impact on my work, as 'truthfulness, compassion, forbearance' is a realm of thought I want to attain," she said. Managing talented individuals requires a lot of wisdom, she said, and the performance showed her a path to better enterprise management via these values.

Shen Yun is more than just a performance; it's a revival of the beauty and goodness of China before communism. Artists came from all over the world to join Shen Yun's mission. Many personally experienced persecution in China at the hands of a totalitarian regime at war with traditions, religion, and its history. Some of the world's top classically trained dancers and award-winning musicians are among these artists.

What they have built with Shen Yun is called groundbreaking, exquisitely beautiful, and a display of excellence by critics. "You could just feel it, that people loved what they were doing and enjoying it, and performing seemed to be a joy for them. And the music, being by the orchestra…I sat so close to it, that I really felt it, just the beauty of the music as well," said Shari Levandowski, vice president of Information Technology Services at Reedy Industries.

A strong team sticks together in challenging times.

A grand mission naturally comes with obstacles. And when Shen Yun started gaining international attention, the Chinese Communist Party didn't stay quiet. Media campaigns, advertising, and phone calls to theater managers pressuring them to cancel Shen Yun shows went on for years. The Chinese Communist Party's agents even resorted to slashing Shen Yun tour bus tires in an attempt to stop shows.

But at the end of the day, none of their efforts made a difference. "They [Shen Yun dancers] had to leave China, and that's just not a free world where you can express yourself and provide such great music and dance and everything else," said Todd Morgan, Former Orlando CEO Of The Year and founder of Comprehensive Energy Services Inc.

Shen Yun in recent years had boldly presented the tagline "China before communism." For 5,000 years, the empire was built on the core idea of harmony between heaven, earth, and humankind. China's culture was believed to be divinely inspired, and its values came from spiritual disciplines like Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Virtues like benevolence, wisdom, loyalty, propriety, and justice were the backbone of traditional Chinese culture and civilization. These are the complete opposite of what the Chinese Communist Party stands for.

A Shen Yun performance includes many short dance stories, including often a modern-day story set in China. Katrina Lim, entrepreneur, said, "There is no other company in the United States that does this. This is a one-of-a-kind," Lim said. "It's just amazing though, how we are able to enjoy these dances and I believe they said in China, they're not."

A growing company and global sensation.

In the face of challenges, Shen Yun has continued to grow. Every year, Shen Yun premieres a brand-new production and performs in front of millions at top theaters worldwide, from New York's Lincoln Center and Washington's Kennedy Center to Burgtheater in Vienna and Tokyo Opera City.

The Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra also holds its own performance annually at Carnegie Hall, along with its own tour. The company recently launched a new, on-demand streaming platform, Shen Yun Zuo Pin, giving fans access to exclusive video content.

Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett attended a performance and said it was "An extraordinary experience for us and the children." It also caught the attention of the former senior manager of the Grammy Awards, Omega Medina, who said after watching a show, "I feel blessed for having experienced this magnificent event." These influential minds and the growing number of CEOs and modern professionals rushing to see a Shen Yun Performing Arts show are onto something — because, really, don't we all want to learn from the best?

Inspire your team and yourself with tickets to the next Shen Yun production near you.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks