If you live in the Bay Area or in other urban areas, you may notice that periodically, advertisements go up for a “Shen Yun Performing Arts.” These usually have a picture of a Chinese woman doing some sort of traditional dance like the ones shown (the image shown shown here is not from Shen Yun, though). Sometimes people will be handing out flyers or cards advertising these performance in various public places. Having known nothing about them, I was always curious about this group. In this review of a Shen Yun performance, our founder Ernie talks about his experiences at one of the Shen Yun group’s performances.
Ernie points out that Shen Yun is run by people from Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), a religious group suppressed by the Chinese government. He was taken a bit back by the political content and religious content of the show. He did like most of the performances though. This is a just brief summary – they really don’t do justice to what Ernie wrote and it is much more amusing to read those yourself.
But just when you find yourself charmed at the thirty dancers in unison, out pops an an interpretative dance about how a mother is killed in front of her daughter by goons in black and red shirts with the hammer and sickle symbol upside down, the most unsubtle subtle reference to the Chinese government ever. The daughter ascends to nirvana and is reunited to her mother holding a bunch of scrolls: Falun Dafa manifestos. (I would include a photo as text doesn’t convey the majesty of this moment, but, you know, photography strictly prohibited.)
Which feel out of place after twenty men do a synchronized dance using ancient drums, right? It turns out the production company are a group of exiled Falun Dafa practitioners based in New York City. They’ve been exiled because one man’s pathway to enlightenment is another man’s evil cult. After all, Shen Yun is not allowed to perform in China, which they remind you about by the emcees, in programs, and in their finale which I’ll get to later.
None of this is advertised, as a person meditating on a bus stop with large text saying “COME LEARN ABOUT HOW OUR BUDDHIST-BASED DOCTRINE IS OPPRESSED” will not bring as much old people through the doors than, say, a pretty girl with silk sleeves leaping through the air.
For his efforts, the Shen Yun group did tweet him and thank him for the review. This surprised him somewhat, as the review wasn’t exactly glowing. Perhaps they are of the school that any publicity is good publicity.