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Show's beauty shaded by political message

2008-01-14 Author:By: Punch Shaw

The Chinese New Year Spectacular, a brightly costumed extravaganza of song and dance that opened a three-night run at Nokia Theatre on Monday, initially appears to be just what you'd expect.

Supported by an orchestra of mostly Western instruments, large dance ensembles filled the stage with color and carefully crafted motion. Next came a soprano singing a near-operatic aria in Chinese supported by just a pianist.

That set the pattern for an evening that revealed its real agenda very slowly. The first clues were in song lyrics, displayed on a video backdrop in both Mandarin and English, which called for listeners to rise up against "oppression" and to seek "truth" and "freedom."

Then came a dance depicting the persecution of the followers of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong), a spiritual movement banned by the Chinese government, and things began to become clearer. Because there in the fine print on a brochure promoting the event, it notes that the concert is "co-presented by Southern USA Falun Dafa Association."

So this event had little or nothing to do with ringing in the Chinese New Year. Instead, we were treated to dances that depicted things like black-shirted thugs sporting red symbols on their backs that looked a bit like hammers and sickles attacking a group of Falun Gong youths costumed like extras on Leave it to Beaver.

The basic message -- Falun Gong good, Chinese government bad -- could not have been clearer.

Although it is easy to understand why someone would want to take some shots at the powers in Beijing, it's hard to see why the promoters of this show weren't more upfront about the true purpose of this show.

And they also could have made it a great deal more entertaining while they were at it. The singers and dancers are quite good and the costuming is fantastic. Where else are you going to see a first-rate Mongolian bowl dance or an erhu soloist who really cooks?

But everything is done in a solemn and pious manner, which makes the show more like church than a raucous New Year's celebration. A long night of Mao-bashing should be a lot more fun than this.

(Star-Telegram, January 9, 2008)

Original text from: http://www.star-telegram.com/live//story/399319.html