One of the important factors of Shen Yun’s success.
Breaking one chopstick is easy, but breaking a bunch of chopsticks is hard.
When I first learned this Chinese adage from the emcees' introduction to the ethnic Mongolian chopsticks dance in Shen Yun 2008, I was deeply inspired. Even long, thin chopsticks can be strong when banded together. As a bundle they can withstand many times the pressure because each chopstick shares in overcoming the difficulty with its friends. By sticking together for the same purpose, they become an indestructible whole.
In the world around us, teamwork is an essential skill. Sports teams depend on it. Companies emphasize it. Families are built upon it. For me, I learned what it truly means to be part of a team after joining Shen Yun. In Shen Yun I saw team spirit manifest in every part of the company. It is this spirit—everyone putting their all into working toward the same purpose—that allows Shen Yun to overcome difficulties and challenges to become one of the top performing arts companies today.
Teamwork is not as easy as it sounds. Effective teamwork requires sacrifice. Sometimes it means giving up your leisure time to help others in need, or letting go of your own ideas to support someone else’s that may work just as well or even better. It requires everyone to put the group before themselves for the common good—the opposite of being egocentric and placing yourself first. When a team is dedicated to a worthy cause and all members take its mission as their own responsibility, the team becomes unbreakable and is bound to succeed.
In Shen Yun’s case, our company mission is clear: to revive the essence of authentic Chinese culture, bring back the beauty of traditional arts and values, and deliver hope to the audience. We want to do this because we see that we live in a world where traditional values are fading, where people grow more materialistic day by day, and where people are losing hope for goodness.
This is a mission that takes up almost every moment of our lives. The artists and staff of Shen Yun work with each other 12 months of the year. If we're not planning and rehearsing together, we're out touring the world. If we're not performing at the theater, we're at the hotel prepping for the next day or riding the tour bus towards our next destination. There are always decisions to make, things to do, and challenges to face, hand in hand, both on and off stage.
Since we perform, travel, eat, play, and do everything as a team, there’s maximum contact with everyone. You'd think a bit of friction once in a while would be unavoidable. Yet in my daily life I never have to think about how to avoid conflict or how to cooperate with others. Maybe it’s because everyone knows why they are here, their purpose, so we don't dwell so much on ourselves and our own desires. When you really become a part of Shen Yun, it becomes natural to let go of yourself to listen to what others think and do what’s best for the group.
No matter whether it's during rehearsal or touring season, my teammates push themselves to their limit every day. It's a common sight to see people practicing diligently late into the night, drenching their clothes in sweat while jumping, flipping, and improving their flexibility. And none of it is for the purpose of competing for center stage. Rather, each of us tries her hardest to fulfill her responsibility to the group and our mission so we can present our best to the audience. Each person inspires those around her to work harder. The result? Everyone keeps motivated and improves at miraculous speeds.
Some audience members from various arts fields say they are amazed by how exact every second of our performance is, as it requires the entire production—from dancers to musicians to sound, lighting, and all other technical departments—to work together flawlessly. It seems almost impossible to them, because they know how difficult it is to keep a dozen dancers synchronized to a recording, never mind several dozen to a live orchestra.
For Shen Yun, this is far from impossible because we are a whole. We are a team with everyone doing their best to cooperate with each another. This is part of what makes Shen Yun a phenomenal production, or in the words of some of our audience members: a divine performance.
March 22, 2018