Shen Yun 2014

Last week we finally got round to seeing Shen Yun. They’ve been here a few times and we’ve always fancied going (and always thought our daughters would enjoy it too) so this year we bought four tickets. We bought the cheapest available, which were still pretty pricey, and this meant that we were sat on the balcony. However the view was pretty good, to the extent that I wonder why anyone would feel the need to pay twice as much to be any closer. It’s a pretty wide, large scale spectacle so you don’t need to be close enough to see the dancers’ skin pores anyway.

Here’s a glimpse of what the show is like:

It was all very pretty and colourful and energetic and amazingly kitsch, and comprised a mixture of classical dance and re-enactments of scenes from folklore and ancient literature performed through dance, mime, and using a large video screen to illustrate some scenes. So far, so pleasant. What came as something of a surprise was the political element which came to the fore as the performance went on. I knew beforehand that Shen Yun was an American organisation, not supported or even appreciated by the Chinese themselves, but it wasn’t until seeing the show that I realised that they were a group of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) practitioners, and they use this show not only in an attempt to revive ancient Chinese culture and legends but also to draw attention to Falun Dafa’s persecution at the hands of the Chinese state. In two separate scenes characters are shown meditating peacefully until they are accosted by sinister communist types dressed all in black, with bright red hammer and sickle logos on their backs. They are beaten up and one of them is killed. It struck a strange note after all the light-hearted capering about of the other routines, although I don’t necessarily mind a little bit of politics in my dance, and obviously they have a fair point to make.

This aspect of their work is described in much more detail in this section of their website, including descriptions of alleged attempts at sabotage of Shen Yun performances by the Chinese communist authorities.