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Shen Yun Chinese dancers at Cobb Energy Centre

2011-01-10 Author:By Jamie Gumbrecht

Shen Yun Performing Art, a troupe of Chinese dancers and musicians, has been to Atlanta before, but only this time are they going for the mass market.

But a scathing opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun calls the production "creepy" and the backdrops "garish," but mostly seems to have a problem with the show’s politics.

I haven’t seen it, but for those who’ve seen it in the past: is it as much spectacle as it the ubiquitous billboards say it is? Did the message matter more than the music and dance?


Margaret Witten ,January 15th, 2010

Dear Mr. Pousner:

I’d like to comment on your write-up of the Shen Yun dance troupe in the AJC. I haven’t seen the show this year and it may be different than last year’s show, but I doubt it. Last year, a friend gave me a couple of tickets to the show, so my girlfriend and I went. After a couple of the performance dances, and especially after the operatic numbers (sung in Chinese, with super-titles in English), we began to realize that something was going on. (Also the producers showed a great interest in video taping our reactions to the show, while they prohibited any photography of the show itself.) It became very clear by the end of the show that the event was sponsored by the Falun Gong and that the show really amounted to a propaganda campaign against the Chinese government. In fact I was under the impression that many of the people in the audience were followers of the Falun Gong and may not have paid for their tickets.

Far be it from me to defend the Communist Chinese government, but I do think we were "sold" a bill of goods. Whether or not the Chinese government is maltreating the Falun Gong, we deserved to be told that we were being entertained (and paying for the privilege, as my friend did pay $100 per ticket for the show!) for the purpose of being indoctrinated into the philosophy and the plight of the Falung Gong.

As I said, maybe the show is different this year, but last year, it was pretty clear to us that the tickets for this show were being sold under false pretenses, even if for a good cause (although I’m not sure of that given the experience). As a reporter, you have a responsibility to truly and accurately report. Sometimes you find the stories, other times the stories find you. You may be saying to yourself, "Heck, I’m the entertainment editor what do I know from politics?" But from reading your write-up (which could, to some, appear to be a review), I think you were "had" if you didn’t notice or weren’t made aware of what was going on. And I think you contribute to the deceit if you don’t do a little investigating and find out what is really going on in the Energy Center.

I note that, in a check of the AJC today, there is a reference to a negative review from a Vancouver newspaper. I am glad to see that the AJC has picked up that reference. I would hope that the AJC could do a better job, in the future, of making it clear that it was providing information without having actually seen a performance, or, in the alternative, informing the public of the true nature of a performance (when something is so political.)

Best Regards,
Dan Franklin
Margaret Witten

RJ, January 19th, 2010

Sadly, I took my wife last Friday to see this show. As others have said, it was a mediocre performance which did not approach the glowing description on the website for the Cobb Energy Centre. Yet, most unnerving was the fact that it is a propaganda machine for the Falun Gong.

We left early (at the intermission), and, as we were walking down the stairs and discussing the show, a Chinese-descent woman walking down at the same time heard me say something about a "message". She began to beam like a moonie, smiling and staring straight at me, pacing us as we walked down the stairs. I stopped saying anything substantive, but she kept staring, making us uncomfortable, so I finally said "hello". She then emphasized that there was, indeed, a message in all of the music– as if that shouldn’t be obvious to anyone who is not in a vegitative state. Perfect end to a perfect night.

I wrote a scathing email to the Cobb Energy Centre on Saturday asking it is the official policy of the same to mislead audiences with regard to both the substance and purpose of performances hosted there. In part I wrote:

"Irregardless of the 'merits’ of this movement [Falun Gong], it is reprehensible that such a fine facility should act as a shill for a group officially described as a cult. At the very least, an honest declaration of the intent of the show was in order. Unfortunately, your deceptive obscuring of the true purpose of the performance shows complicity with both their motivation and methods. I am more than disappointed: I feel personally deceived."

As yet, no response. They apparently are taking a "caveat emptor" stance, and feel they bear no personal responsibility for both hiding the purpose of the show and exaggerating the "beauty" of the spectacle to a degree that makes hyperbole look like understatement.
I’d love to see the AJC interview officials at the Cobb Energy Centre, ask them why they feel free to deceive people in this way. This is, according to their website, the third year Shen Yun has performed there. Pleading they were unaware of the content would be a difficult position to defend. At the very least, someone in the media needs to make sure no one is innocently taken in by this group again.

Northern Californian, January 20th, 2010

Like other commenters here, I felt very deceived by the way this show was advertised. This show is far more about preaching, "Falun Dafa is Good!" than about dance. The dancing was mediocre and amateurish. How many ways could this dance group rearrange itself into 5 lines, then twirl in a clockwise direction? Very monotonous.

I felt beaten about the head, neck and ears with their "message."

The day after the show, in Sacramento, I logged on to the Shen Yun website and asked for a refund. I am certain I’ll never get a response. I deserve one.

Dozens of people walked out during our performance. The performances were ripped in a popular review site in San Francisco. And the Vancouver Sun article is clearly being sock-puppeted.

This show is a shameless rip-off of your money. The truth needs to be told. I have seen many, many better Chinese dance productions; they’re not all this bad.

Your local university will probably be hosting some Chinese New Year festivities. Go to those instead, and go to those to help wipe out the memory of Shen Yun.

WRL, February 7th, 2010

Wow. Walked away from Saturday’s Hanover Theater performance of Shen Yun feeling a bit queasy with no doubt that this was the intent of the performance. The Shen Yun troupe delivered sharply divisive political rhetoric under the guise of cultural and historical entertainment.

With an unashamed and in your face Anti Communist-China message and direct promotion of Falun Dafa, a controversial cultural and religious movement, the performance left me thinking "What just Happened?" Like many must have, I went home and Googled-up after the show to find that this was more than meets the eye.

The first half of the performance was more subtle with slight references to the highly political message. Shen Yun camera crew waited in the lobby during intermission to collect feedback from viewers who were using words like "stunning" and "awesome" to describe the colorful, athletic and graceful performance of the Shen Yun dancers.

The second half of the One-Two punch came after the intermission when dancers acted out scenes of brutal communist violence against those practicing "Dafa".

I understand Art having shock value is effective communication, but wonder if Shen Yun’s message might be tempered by its duplicitous advertising approach, using media hype and deception to lure its audience into delivering its message.

One of the main tenants of Falun Dafa is said to be truthfulness, yet I couldn’t help feeling that the troupe was hypocritical and deceitful in their approach which was straight out propaganda.

I forked over $150 for two tickets and unknowingly made a donation to a public movement. It’s not that I’m not a charitable guy; I just like to know where my donations are going beforehand. Shame on me for not pre-Googling. I was sort of curious that if the Playbill touted the political angle and message, they might be more successful and reach more people.

Pam,March 30th, 2010

I saw this show this weekend on Saturday in Vancouver (March 2010). I really felt I had been scammed. I have had a huge interest in China, it’s history and culture for years , so this was meant to be a real treat for me. My partner and I paid $79 canadian for tickets and I was really looking forward to this, we also traveled to Vancouver, paid for a hotel room, so not a cheap weekend and meant to be really special.

To make a long story short, many of the songs, stories and dances were simply propaganda for the religion of Falun Dafa, there were only a very few pieces that were free of this message, and even those, whilst pretty enough, were not awe inspiring enough to compensate for what was clearly a scam, a money raising venture for this group. They were blatant propaganda, examples being a 'dance’ (one of several) showing someone being killed by communist police whilst practising Falun Dafa, and being taken to heavan, atheists in one song were denounced as perverse, and the way to salvation was through this belief system. Much of the second half of this show was taken up with pretty much all propaganda for this religion, and it was about as subtle as a sledge hammer. At the end of the performance when the show cast were assembled on stage, before the lights had even come up, large numbers of the audience stood up and left the theatre, including ourselves. Those remaining started to give an ovation, my assumption was that they were adherants to this religion because there was no other reason that made sense, so many people left in disgust or perplexity.

What made me really frustrated was that I googled it (sadly too late to save myself any money) when I returned home, and found that all the reviews you can find generally come from something called the Echo Chronicle or something similar, which is sponsored by them, so only good reviews can be seen. It comes across as somewhat spooky, like a cult. Until I saw this show I had some sympathy for any group that is oppressed for what it believes, but they claim the high road and then rip people off with this show. My reason for writing is to prevent other people from being scammed by this group. I would have had no problem with this if it had been advertised fairly for what it was, I have no problem with seeing things as art or music that shock or challenge, I would happily engage in a discussion or read information about it, but this was straight forward dishonesty, selling propaganda as a wonderful, cultural experience. For anyone thinking of going, save your money, or at least go with your eyes wide open to the real agenda of this show , at least then you won’t be disapointed.


Original text from: http://blogs.ajc.com/inside-access/2010/01/14/shen-yun-chinese-dancers-at-cobb-energy-centre/