Opinion: Shen Yun Performing Arts presents a cheesy spectacle of Falun Gong propaganda

26 Jan

I hate to break it to you, but if you’ve already bought tickets for the musical extravaganza that is Shen Yun Performing Arts, you’ve been sold a bill of goods.

Promising to “breathe new life into traditional Chinese culture,” the New York-based production currently on tour is little more than a crass propaganda vehicle for Falun Gong, a system of beliefs banned by the Communist regime in China. The show plays in Vancouver March 30-April 1.

Set against a garish digital backdrop that alternates between bucolic scenes of a pre-industrial China and cartoonish images of Buddhist deities swooping down from the heavens, the dancers perform precisely choreographed, athletic routines accompanied by a live orchestra. Breaking up the dance numbers, two sopranos and a tenor sing — in Chinese with English surtitles — not-too-subtle odes to Falun Gong, and its censure by the state, with lyrics such as, “The life-saving Way is spread / And the Red Fiend’s lies crumble / Truth dispels confusion / The saved escape catastrophe / Intent to cultivate Dafa.”

Outside China, adherents of Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, usually go about protesting the atrocities perpetrated against them by Chinese authorities by meditating in public places alongside graphic photos of alleged victims. Shen Yun is a much softer — but only slightly subtler — sell.

One particularly heavy-handed number begins with a happy family doing Falun Gong exercises in the park. Suddenly, club-wielding, black-clad thugs appear, and drag the mother and daughter away. The halcyon backdrop abruptly becomes a menacing, smoke-bellowing detention centre, where the mother is beaten to death before ascending to heaven, accompanied by the aforementioned deities.

There’s a creepy, evangelical aspect to it all — which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the Disney-esque take on “traditional” Chinese song and dance. The men’s acrobatic dancing is impressive, and the women’s fan-waving and embroidering well-synchronized and graceful. But between the cheesy backdrops and tacky costumes (lots of polyester and sequins), don’t think for a second you’re in for a modern version of the Peking Opera: This feels more like a Sunday-school class putting on a low-budget Vegas show.

Adding insult to injury is the corny comedic banter between two bilingual presenters, particularly the cringe-inducing jokes told by the male half of the duo, who should consider hosting a game show if this Shen Yun gig doesn’t work out.

Human-rights abuses in China are a serious matter, but attempting to draw attention to them through tawdry, thinly veiled proselytizing is an insult to audiences — who can be forgiven for believing the heavy hype and promotion (minus mention of Falun Gong) that precede the shows.

text from: http://www.facts.org.cn

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