Organizers for the arts troupe Shen Yun bill its performances as "an extraordinary journey across 5,000 years of Chinese civilization" told through dance, music and breathtaking imagery. They promise that the show, slated for Jan. 17 to 19 at the Keller Auditorium, will "touch your soul." But beneath the layers of colored, flowing cloth is a message that wraps up politics, propaganda, religion and media.
Critics of Shen Yun have decried the anti-Communist message that underscores the performance, one propagated by Falun Dafa (also called Falun Gong), a meditative religious group based in China. Falun Dafa founded Shen Yun in 2006, according to the dance troupe's website, and has been in conflict with the Chinese Communist Party ever since.
Under the heading "Will the World Allow the Chinese Communist Party to Dictate the Arts," Shen Yun accuses the Chinese government of funding hoards of competing dance troupes and even slashing the tires on Shen Yun's vehicles. Wars of words between Falun Dafa and the government, recently leveled in a Forbes story last week about Chinese businessman Chen Guangbiao, flood the Internet, each side lobbing claims against the other.
The battle bubbles beneath the surface of a generally well-received artistic tour through traditional Chinese culture. The show travels around the world each year, but never enters China itself, where party officials have banned it.
The idea of "the show Beijing doesn't want you to see" seems like it would be appealing enough to American audiences, but Shen Yun still appears bent on controlling how it's received in the press.
Stories about Shen Yun available online overwhelmingly are written by The Epoch Times, an American publication that delivers news in English and Chinese. They've published nearly 50 stories about the troupe in the last week alone, under headlines like "Business Owner Amazed By Shen Yun's Legends" and "Executive: Shen Yun 'a beautiful experience.'" Epoch Times reporters file dispatches from every show, finding positive experiences from attendees at intermission.
The Epoch Times also covers Falun Dafa favorably, and takes a strong stance against the Chinese government.
The question for Portland audiences, then, is whether the politics behind the show color an otherwise beautiful performance. With impressive choreography, ornate costumes and stunning visuals, Shen Yun has earned a global reputation for good reason. And in the end, it's all about the art — isn't it?
Original Text From:http://www.oregonlive.com/performance/index.ssf/2014/01/shen_yun_performance_masks_ant.html