Jan 22, 2019

You've seen the posters around town; here are 5 things you need to know about Shen Yun

Manuel Mendoza
Dallas Morning News
January 22, 2019

You've no doubt seen the posters for Shen Yun Performing Arts that blanket each city where the music and dance troupe travels. Its elaborately designed shows are advertised as a celebration of traditional Chinese culture. But there's more to the upstate New York ensemble than flashy costumes and choreography: It's a wing of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government.

As Shen Yun enters its final week of performances in North Texas, here are five things you need to know about the group:

1.     It operates out of the 427-acre Falun Gong retreat in Deerpark, N.Y., according to a report by Britain's Guardiannewspaper. Six separate troupes totaling hundreds of performers train there for tours that will take them to 43 states and 14 countries this year. In North Texas alone, Shen Yun opened its annual run with six shows earlier this month at Richardson's Eisemann Center before moving to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth for two dates. Its whopping 16-show stand at Winspear Opera House wraps Jan. 27.

2.     Falun Gong was founded inside China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi during a boom in meditative practices. According to the Los Angeles Times, it initially had the support of the communist Chinese government. But as its followers reached the tens of millions late in the decade, the government began cracking down on groups promoting the new spirituality. Protests and clashes followed. The socially conservative Hongzhi, who has preached against homosexuality and sex outside of marriage, emigrated to the U.S.

3.     Shen Yun was established in 2006. In the ensuing years, as its connection to Falun Gong has become more public, the secretive group has acknowledged the link though it still declines interviews and access to its shows by photographers.

4.     The productions contain references to Falun Gong and its Chinese oppressors. In a Toronto show described by Guardianreporter Nicholas Hune-Brown, young students were depicted reading Falun Gong books and being attacked by thugs wearing tunics with hammer-and-sickle symbols.

5.     Shen Yun likes to publicize the names of celebrities attending its shows, sometimes collecting testimonials. "It was an extraordinary experience for us and the children," actress Cate Blanchett is quoted as saying after a 2012 performance. "The level of skill, but also the power of the archetypes and the narratives were startling."


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