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Shen Yun show stunning but disconcerting

Shen Yun Performing Arts 'Pheonix.' Credit: Shen Yun

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Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

REVIEW

The Shen Yun Performing Arts show on Saturday was both beautiful and disconcerting. The troupe of at least 40 dancers presented more than 20 dances, most of which represented traditional Chinese culture.

The Dance of the Yi People and another representing Mongolian culture were kind of what we expected at the show. The costumes were stunning, and most, particularly with the women dancers, were integral in the eye-popping movements. Sleeves contracted and unfurled, while dresses helped the dancers look like colorful pinwheels. The men displayed impressive acrobatic stunts. A giant video-screen backdrop made the performers appear to fly out of the sky and onto the stage. And the mix of Western and Eastern instruments in the live orchestra was appealing.

The disconcerting part came during two dances that were meant to represent modern-day oppression of the adherents of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong). The show went from women dancing while balancing bowls on their head, to a scene where a modern tourist father and daughter are beaten by Chinese officials because they are mistakenly thought to be with a group of Falun Dafa. Shen Yun is presented by the Falun Dafa Association, which clearly has an agenda. Regardless of whether you believe the Falun Dafa is an oppressed spiritual group or a “cult,” as the Chinese government has labeled it, these dances seemed inappropriate in the context of a performance about classical Chinese cultural. If the group felt it needed to make a statement, then it should have let the show's two narrarators relate the Falan Dafa's stand. I don't think surprising audience members with this brutal portrayal will help to gain sympathizers.

— Susan Jones

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