Shen Yun “Divine Performing Arts” Ensemble – Chinese Art Spectacular – Royal Festival Hall

by

NOTE: I completely support freedom of religion, and I support the right of Fa Lun Gung practitioners to follow their religion as they see fit. This review is NOT “anti-Fa Lun Gung,” it is simply a theatrical review of what was billed as an arts performance. I am against the suppression of Fa Lun Gung as it is against the universal rights of man to not be able to follow the religion you choose.

Well, this was not the night I was expecting. I was warned, more or less, in the opening number, in which pretty dancing ladies in traditional dress, buddhist monks, and Chinese warriors danced on stage in front of a video screen. Suddenly, a flying chariot shot down from the sky and the deity within it said, “All come together and live a thousand years!” or something like that, and the people on stage all turned and bowed to the video screen.

Oh my God, we had bought tickets to a Chinese religious “revival.” And this wasn’t some run of the mill religion: it was the heavily persecuted Fa Lun Gung cult, for two and a half hours. Holy shades of Xenu, Batman!

To be clear, there was quite a bit of traditional Chinese dance, including a charming “Tibetan bowl dance,” a number in which whirled yellow handkerchiefs (which looked like dandelions) made a field of flowers (supposedly forsythias), and two different fan dances. But these were interspersed with the most heinous vocal performances I’ve seen since … well, I am thinking of Lyric Opera Northwest’s Carmen, but we weren’t really suffering from poor vocals. What we were presented was a culturally painful pastiche of anime style hooped ballgowns, a straight Western singing style, and lyrics … all about Fa Lun Gung. Let me give you an example.

“So vast loomed this world/I knew not who I was/Oh how many lifetimes? The number was a blur.
“Lost no help in sight/Only distress and pain/How weary, how heavy was this longing heart.
“Until one day I finally came upon the truth/Until The Way (Da Fa, from Fa Lun Da Fa, the great path of Fa Lun Gung) I had sought pierced the ear like thunder.” (Okay, that’s not as obvious as the one where the woman sang, “Fa Lun Gung, it’ll make you feel better,” but this happens to be the one I had the pen out for.)

I was mortified. I had inadvertently fell into a cache of very sincere religious people singing and dancing their hearts out in support of their faith, and I had paid to be there.

To be fair, the artistry was quite good if you like Chinese dance, and the erhu (Chinese violin) performance was great, but I was crawling in my skin and rather angry with the promoters for hiding the true nature of this performance. I mean, I have no one to blame but myself for not realizing that the Bach “Saint John’s Passion” is basically a really long Bible reading, but the promotional material for this performance said it was a Chinese performing arts presentation, and indicated nowhere that it was a group of American Fa Lun Gung believers on a tour of Europe to raise consciousness about their great religion and their persecution by the Chinese government.

That said, I was quite absorbed by the two pieces about how, well, let’s be clear, the Chinese authorities beat up, imprison, and sometimes kill people who practice Fa Lun Gung. The piece set in the prison (with three women prisoner who clearly are being held because of their faith) may have been extremely corny insofar as it proposed that someone could see images of dancing Chinese fairies if they believed hard enough; but the bit about being beaten to death in jail, that was pretty real and it hit a nerve that most dance I see just pretends isn’t even there. The two women who saw their friend joining the angels in heaven (albeit a Chinese/Buddhist heaven): totally outside of my belief system, and yet the raw need to believe something positive could come out such a horrible death (and probably some rather bad lives) was palpable from my balcony seat. It even gave me some sympathy for my own torturers. And, I have to admit, the way China’s ramping up throwing dissidents in jail with the Olympics on the way, I felt rather cheery about having someone say, “Yo! China! Let’s talk about how great it isn’t!” (This was exactly the point made in the other religious dance piece, in which the mother and her daughter started out waving a Fa Lun Gung banner and were then forcibly separated by soldiers – the rather subtle message being that the world should not be a bystander to this abuse. They pointed this out to us before it started in case we might have missed the extremely heavy-handed symbolism.) I imagine the Chinese government gnashing its collective teeth over this show, which, well, really worked the political angle, generally speaking in a club like way.

Fa Lun Gung also seemed not so great, based on the dance piece in which the punk and the goth had goddesses and monks shaming them for their bad clothes (but then rewarding them with a religious text in a scene that had me thinking of Joseph Smith and the golden tablets) – is conformity really such a virtue for them? I think, though, rather than them disliking them for being “punk,” it may be, in fact, that they were being rejected for being homosexual – and for me, a religion (or culture or country) that persecutes homosexuals is not one that I could ever support.

While the religious element in general had me wishing for a much earlier end to the show, I also take issue with it being too long overall, using video screens in an imagination-inhibiting way, and … well, the singers just shouldn’t have been there at all, because they were boring and they ruined the flow of the rest of the show. And how could they do a show about Chinese arts and culture that didn’t have even a nod to the Journey to the West? So while at the end we were exhorted to bring our friends and family, I will say to you instead: avoid, avoid, avoid this show, even if you really like Chinese culture (like I do) – it’s like watching a two and a half hour long religious infomercial.

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51 Responses to “Shen Yun “Divine Performing Arts” Ensemble – Chinese Art Spectacular – Royal Festival Hall”

  1. lulu24 Says:

    You are so right, saw this show on Sunday and was appalled that we had spent money to have inauthentic cheese and creepy propaganda shoved down our throats!

    Falun Gong does not seem to be so great, as you say, the leader of the movement has been quoted as saying that all homosexuals are evil, there are aliens on the earth and mixed race marriages are wrong and an example of aliens influencing humankind.

    We left during the interval but when we were outside the theatre discussing how bad it was in disbelief a creepy Falun Gong lady came up to us to interview us about the show. She went off on one about the persecution in China etc etc which is fair enough and I do feel sorry for these people. However she then started to say that the children of Falun Gong practitioners were served as food in restaurants!

    Needless to say, we felt that we had heard enough by then and hurried away!

    Avoid like the plague, this is not a representation of traditional Chinese culture.

  2. Jane Says:

    I saw this show in London and i can’t help saying I found it really great. I found the dancing beautiful, and the drummers were amazing! I thought the stories on Falun Gong were moving, too.

    In the scene with the three ladies, even if the choreography was simple (i don’t know much about dancing..) I really felt it came from their hearts. It is sad that the persecution is still going on in China.

    Just from my understanding, I think Falun Gong is very connected to the traditional Chinese culture. Perhaps a reason why it became so popular in the 1990s. This reminds me when the little girl was holding up the banner which in English read “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance”

    I hope that I can see this show next year, I left feeling refreshed : )

  3. Erika Says:

    Hello,
    Wow, sounds like the show might be worth it just to be immersed in such a spectacle.
    I thought, given your interest in Chinese culture, you may want to check out tomorrow’s Issue of the Day at http://www.TheIssue.com, where we will discuss the cultural implications of China’s rich elite stockpiling pieces of art.
    Please feel free leave comments or feedback.
    Thank you,
    Erika|Editor
    http://www.TheIssue.com

  4. webcowgirl Says:

    It is difficult to be “immersed” in a “spectacle” when one is having a political message beaten into you with a stick. I was constantly reminded that I was at a pro-Fa Lun Gung event, and not at a pro-Chinese culture event. It was no more pleasant than going to see a classical music concert and having people talk about Christianity between sets – it made me tremendously uncomfortable and I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

  5. anthropoidape Says:

    I just got home from seeing this show (well, the first half) in Melbourne, Australia. Alarm bells started ringing as soon as the curtain lifted, and it was soon very obvious that I was sitting through propaganda for a religious cult. There was no compensation in the form of a high quality show, either – really the performances for the most part were on the level of a high school musical.

    I feel like we got robbed (our two tickets were $160), and that’s not even counting the time that was wasted. A lot of other people seemed to be leaving at the intermission as well.

    Got home and researched the show… hence finding your blog entry. I wish I’d researched it before buying the tickets – and just thought I would reinforce your message in case anyone reading here is doing just that.

    Cheers,

    Jason

  6. anthropoidape Says:

    … sorry, just following up – our tickets were $159 each; my partner paid for them. Now I feel more robbed. Sheesh.

  7. natalie Says:

    well, i thought it was great! i loved the whole show and i got so touched! the one with the three women got me crying, and loved the one with the long sleeve dance and the drummers, they’re great! people around me seemed to love it too. i don’t know want you guys are talking about.

  8. Vince Says:

    Saw it back in January. Love it.

  9. Irish Says:

    I watched the show in London. I enjoyed every part of it. It is the emerging classic for the future.

  10. Bob Says:

    I watched the show at radio city of new york. I thought it is great show. my heart was moved. I would like to see the show again. I will tell my friends to see show together. Anyway, I love it.

  11. Sarah Says:

    I have not seen the show yet, but I’d like to. I watched some clips on the internet of the show from 2006 to get an idea of it, and I was bawling my eyes out; it was so beautiful and moving. Maybe some people could check it out on youtube or something first to see if they like it.

  12. Jamien Says:

    i saw this show on my visit to osaka. It was so great, and i guess you just wrote this kind of blog to express dissatisfaction of your personal feelings and the thought of “being robbed”. i feel somewhat you don’t really like religious-thing, the show is really connected to that and u might not enjoy it. i think the true chinese culture should really represent religious thing, as i used to read the ancient chinese books that talk about God, Goddess, Guan Yin, and karmic relationship.
    well, anyone can have different opinions, i love the show and will recommend it to all of my friends. peace.

  13. Nick Says:

    Have seen the show a couple of times. It’s very moving and brings a message of compassion. If you go there to see Chinese acrobats who have lost there childhood learning tricks for your amusement you will be disappointed. I’m familiar with the abuse of human rights in China and the persecution of Falun Gong and it’s become a sad part of the Chinese history. I think Divine Performing Arts show awake the good in me. This year I’ll invite friends.

  14. David Says:

    Wow, good thing I found this review. I saw so many advertisements and promotions about this show, always raving about their presentation of Chinese culture, but none of them mention Falun Gong. There is something deeply disturbing about this. It’s like a bait and switch. It almost feels like false advertising. Does their religion support this kind of thing?

  15. joanne Says:

    Though I somewhat understand your feeling that you were ill-prepared for what the show presented, I think there is another way to look at the issue.
    True traditional Chinese culture was extraordinarily different from the Chinese culture that evolved after the Cultural Revolution. The communist party is atheistic, but 5,000 years of Chinese history was intimately interwoven with reverence for Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism–thus the principles of Compassion, Truthfulness and Forbearance respectively. Those principles seemed to emanate from all the scenes. I, myself, was profoundly touched. It was an image of a China that is full of beauty and goodness–what a contrast to the China that poisons babies with melamine, beats and imprisons innocent people who complain to the government for redress of grievances, builds a firewall to prevent people from getting real information from the internet, imprisons journalists, etc., etc. There is an extraordinary peaceful revolution taking place here–a return to the true Chinese cultural traditions. I myself felt privileged to witness it. I will go again.

  16. lucoy Says:

    I watched the show twice last early this year in Seattle. At the end of each show, just see how people is so excited, how they feel so satisfied. Everybody around me is so happy about it. Confucianism, Buddism, Taoism, those religions play a guiding role in traditional Chinese culture. If you remove all religion related stuff out, what’s left? Do you admit that “Feitian” (heavenly girl) in DunHuang (in west China on old silk road) is art? That’s Buddism. Check all those great painting in European Renaissance, many are based on stories in Bible. Do you want to say that those are shameless propaganda? The best part of the show in fact is that part. It presented the traditional Chinese culture as it meant to be.

  17. David James Says:

    Huh? It felt completely like a religious infomercial! I actually have no problem with people “preaching” to me, or sharing their religious beliefs, or even trying to “evangelize me.” BUT, when the performance is billed as entertainment and dancing, AND I PAID MONEY TO SEE IT AS SUCH, THEN I EXPECT ENTERTAINMENT AND DANCING. NOT a religious infomercial. This was not the proper venue for this. It was a complete Bait and Switch.

  18. David James Says:

    And regarding the performances, what is up with the karaoke-style video displayed behind the dancers? The dancing itself was ok. But the bad powerpoint-styled backgrounds pushed the cheese a little too far… I was cringing though most of it…

  19. Antony Says:

    I just saw the show in Florida. I was moved to tears. Amassing colors, beautiful backgrounds and the dancing is so graceful. People around me seemed to enjoy it very much to. Called my friends and family in others cities to go see the show.

  20. Cheree Says:

    I saw a show today by the Divine Performing arts group. Unlike what you saw, our group never came out and said what religion they were talking about, well atleast not in English. The songs were CLEARLY related to their beliefs, but I think this rant is more about a Western misunderstanding and OVER sensitivity to spiritual things. I didn’t get the impression at all they they were trying to convert.. I think they were trying to educate. I think the only thing I’d fault them on is that their reluctance to outright say what the point was (leaving it to the audience to interpret) can put their point in jeopardy. Non-Asian Americans, I think, see their singing about their belief (Not religion.. because Fa Lun Gung is a social Philosophy Not a Religion) as a just that. But, I think the point they were making is this:

    “In CHINA we would be IMPRISONED for this.”

    That is the point. It’s not that they want you to believe as they do. It’s not that they want you to convert. They’re dancing and singing about it because they can. But, millions who remain in China can not be half so open to talk about their Philosophy on life. They’re simply expressing themselves joyfully, because they can. A segment from wikipedia:

    [Since 1999, reports of torture, illegal imprisonment, beatings, forced labor, and psychiatric abuses have been widespread. 66% of all reported torture cases in China concern Falun Gong practitioners, who are also estimated to comprise at least half of China’s labor camp population]

    Also it was clear from the selections and the words spoken between, that this group had other objections to the current Chinese government. Mentioning at one point in time that MANY Chinese traditions that they show cased were no longer practiced in China, and they mentioned “hope” for change and for China and a lot of things actually.

    I think my main point is, you shouldn’t get so caught up in the fact that they mention spirituality that you throw your blinders on and miss what they are ACTUALLY trying to say. What they are saying is we should be able to talk about this without fear of persecution, and regardless of how I feel or what I think about Falun Gong, I 100% agree with that. And, I’m happy with them to have the FREEDOM to sing their there song, heck! Let them sing it again! I’ll pay for that…

    BEYOND THAT it was a great show!! The outfits were delightful! The dances were amazing, and their message was significant.

  21. Linda Says:

    Watching this performance was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. I was sort of shocked that more people weren’t talking about how weird the whole thing was. I actually did enjoy the dancing, and though the singing was not to my taste, I can appreciate the skill involved. But the religious agenda was creepy, creepy, creepy.

  22. Kathryn Says:

    Actually, about this rant that the shows are “propaganda”, DPA shows state clearly that they are sponsored or hosted by the Falun Gong Association of the particular country the shows are in, so really you should have expected some representation of the persecution of Falun Gong in China. Not just FLG though, what’s going on in China with its abuse of human rights is disgusting, and if people can find out about it this way then i have no objections. I know the shows in London last year didn’t say they were hosted by FLG Association but this year on the DPA website it clearly does. People who don’t know about FLG should really find out what it is and talk to people who practise it, you’ll find they’re not crazy at all.

    • TikiMon Says:

      Sorry, I’ve never before been subjected to ideological propaganda by other touring companies. This is a bait and switch, hidden motives.

  23. Webcowgirl’s review of London theater 2008 « Webcowgirl’s Theatre Reviews Says:

    […] show: the “Shen Yu Divine Performing Arts Ensemble Chinese Spectacular gets the prize here. I’m a big fan of Chinese culture, but when you combine cheesy special […]

  24. Richard Says:

    I love your tags for your post. After just losing 3 hours to this show in Seattle (not counting the drive time or parking) I am so glad it wasn’t me paying for the tickets.

    I can only speak for the performance that I witnessed, but:

    This is not a New Year show. The only mention of New Year during this multitude of short skits and poor singing, is when the Masters of Ceremonies, whom you will quickly tire of, try to get some audience participation going by “teaching you Chinese”. It really also isn’t spectacular, there are several very talented performers, the orchestration is good, and the costumes are alright. The set design is non-existent, consisting of some projectors showing cheesy animation. There is no continuity between the many skits, other then that much of the choreography is the same from one to the next. What this show really is though, and this is mentioned during the show, but really no where else, is a load of propaganda for Falun Dafa. Also not mentioned until well into the 2nd half. (If you hadn’t guessed before then) is that it is a New York based company.

    In the end you feel as if you have just spent 2 hours watching a High School ethnic presentation from a religious school. And really; that’s exactly what you just paid top dollar to see.

    Trying to search for more information, as some of the other responses have stated, is futile. All the “News” results are from Epoch Times (A Major Sponsor), the first several pages of search results are all registered by the Divine Performing Arts. And any critical responses or reviews are quickly drowned out by the same sort of “Oh I loved it, and was moved to tears” posts that you find here. One might think they are trying to tailor their image. Who’s “Evil Party Lies” are we not supposed to be believing?

    As to the point being “In China we would be imprisoned for doing this” that is a hard point to make when most of the performers have never been to China. Of the ones that are from China, they were trained in the Arts in China. The MC’s make it sound like NONE of these arts would be seen in China, which is completely unfair. As most of the dances, except maybe the Pro-Falun Dafa, would be allowed. The stories certainly are. They try to taint the entire show as being a show of what arts have been Lost in China since the cultural revolution. But many of these are still taught and performed there.

    I am not fond of China’s human rights record, and can sympathize to some extent. But this religious organization would not be the first group I would intervene for. As there are many more powerful and useful groups suppressed in China, like Journalists. Which is a group of people that the DPA seem to like to repress as well.

    I can’t say I would have thought as the Falun Dafa/Gong practioners as any more crazy then the individuals that practice Scientology. But this show isn’t billed as Some singing and dancing about Falun Gong’s Chinese Repression. It is billed as a Spectacular show of China’s Culture themed to the New Year. And as such, it fails completely.

    If that is the sort of show that you think sounds just like what you would like to see, then I guess this is for you. If you really just wanted to see what Chinese New Year is like, well, maybe go to a neighborhood Chinese restaurant. For the price of the tickets, you could take all your family and friends, and just the process of eating a meal with friends and family would be more traditional, and bound to be more Spectacular then this production.

  25. webcowgirl Says:

    Thanks for your response. I’ve found the feedback people provide on this post says more about what this show is really like than anything I could add and the cultish nature of the performance (not to mention its heavily religious content). I figure it’s best to let the comments stand and let people determine for themselves what kind of organization is putting it on and to what extent it’s really aimed at true believers – and not a “celebration of Chinese culture” but rather a political and religious view of China (a view that is against homosexuals for a start).

  26. Nicol Says:

    Buddhism and Daoism are deeply rooted in traditional Chinese culture. Without them it will not be a traditional Chinese culture.
    The regime in China do not want Chinese people to see this amazing show.They are afraid the Chinese people will realise the extend of destruction this party has brought to there culture. To better understand the deceptive nature of the communist regime please watch this video.
    [Link removed by moderator.]

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  28. natalia Says:

    Please, juist think about two things:
    First: any really great artist (a poet, a dancer, a singer,…) wants to show in his performance not only his artistic professionalism but also a part of his soul. And if his soul is pure, light and honest only then he can create something BEAUTIFUL.

    Second: all great artists in the past had an inspiration source, for example, their lover, the nature, etc., that gave them the power to create their masterpiece. Of course they were very grateful to this ´inspiration source´ that is why they were singing of their Muse in the poems, musical compositions or pictures…

    I have seen Shen Yun show last year and I am honest with myself when I say that I liked it. I am not a Chinese culture’s lover but the purity and brightness that I have seen in this performance I will never forget anymore. And the only reason why Shen Yun looks so ´ pure´ is because souls of artists are kind. Try also to be honest with yourself and agree that all peaces of the show were made with the greatest efforts of the artists, compositors and choreographs.

    I have understood from the show that the inspiration source of the artists which helps them to create their masterpieces is their Belief.
    So I really don’t understand why they should be ashamed of showing the spectators (= us) their gratitude to the inspiration source??? That is why , I think, you could see in the show not only the ´ Chinese traditional arts featuring world-class performers, astonishing costumes and backdrops,…´ but also the gratitude of artists for their Belief (= their inspiration source) for giving them inspiration to create this wonderful performance.

  29. peter Says:

    wow, just got mugged by this tonight too, in rochester, new york. girlfriend bought tickets because she’s into dance, i glanced at the website, saw the glowing reviews and said sure, looks great. oh man. they didn’t start introducing the falan dafa references until about halfway through, but from very early on i had this weird feeling. like, what did this remind me of? the bizarre costumes, the cheesy graphics, the vague discomfort the whole thing was causing me … the it was just like … like something … right! the nutty hill cumorah pageant (http://www.hillcumorah.org/Pageant/)! at least the mormons have the decency not to pretend their show is anything more than insane proselytizing though, and at least they don’t CHARGE you for it.

  30. ggg Says:

    I, a chinese woman who’s not a FaLunGong follower but not anti-FaLunGong, left in the middle of the show with my husband, a Dane who’s been to China many times.

    I was very disappointed with the show. It’s too “plain” and too religious related. Nothing interesting with lights, atmosphere and no stage design at all. It’s like watching Fa Lun Gong’s dancing team’s daily exercise and I feel like I just donated £110 (two tickets) to Fa Lun Gong association instead of spending money and time for an “art performance”, even though they got good dancers (but not top-level performers at international standard).

    I wouldn’t be disappointed if the ticket costs £20 for the best seat, but I was charged for £55. This show hasn’t gone to that high level, especially when there’re so many other top-level shows from different countries in London to compare with.

    On newspaper, it says that people got tears when they watched the show. I’m sure that these people are either Chinese (they cried might because they miss their home in China as the show reminded them so much about their life in China) or very religious people who’s into “soul” more than art performance.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      This is a very fair take on it. I love Chinese dance but when I saw they were charging £55 for this performance in London I was really shocked. I know I cry sometimes when I see stuff that reminds me of home, but for this show I cried more in frustration. I would have much preferred to have seen the Seattle Chinese Girls’ Drill Team performing for New Years or for the Seattle summer festival than this. I don’t have anything against Fa Lun Gung but I really, really feel this show is not what it purports to be. I hope for your sake you made it to the Peony Pavillion last summer – it was truly wonderful!

  31. Bhiishma Says:

    hi… i have been considering going to see the DPA for a while; but haven’t quite got there yet. I have to say, the plethora of testimonials that I viewed on the web (youtube and Epoch Times newspaper) are compelling and overwhelmingly positive. However, many also have something montone about them, so, it is refreshing to read the variety of reviews on your blog. And is promising to read that many that do have some issues with the content related to Falun Gong and the persecution found some thing to enjoy there.

    Nevertheless, I am surprised that it is nigh impossible to find anything but DPA testimonials or infocommercials on the internet, one might expect to find at least one or two acts from the show. If anyone has any links that offer a real preview of what one might expect, it would be much appreciated.

    r

  32. caroline Says:

    I work for the media sponsor for this show, so I got to see nearly every show this week and interview people afterwards.

    I can say that 6 out of 7 shows was a full house and every single show received a standing ovation and 3 curtain calls.

    Every one I interviewed raved about the show and said they would definitely come back next year. One woman even started crying telling me about how moved she was seeing the Falun Gong piece.

    [link to website removed by moderator]

  33. Ictoan Says:

    I was mortified as well when I saw the show tonight. I expected a show about Chinese culture, not some religious propaganda where people sang worship songs over and over again. At first I thought it was only one or two performances but in the second half, these people sang worship songs (similar to the ones from Church) throughout.

    If they want to perform about their religion then make it obvious! Don’t lie to Westerners who knows almost nothing about Chinese culture. This is a very horrible misrepresentation of Chinese culture.

    I’m so disgusted!

  34. me again Says:

    hmmm… can you mix ancient traditional dance and music with a video backdrop? (especially one that looks so sterile and inane)

    The show is major ga ga, although it is performed fairly well. If you like Disney on ice (poor Walt, we miss you) you might like this.

    I did cringe several times at the English translations of the Chinese text.

    If I had to compare this show to a North American evangelical mega-church info-tron, I’d say it was certainly better, although no one spoke in tongues, and I love that particular bit. It always brings a smile to my face.

  35. janz Says:

    Epoch Times newspaper is a falun gong propaganda newpaper, of course it’ll give good reviews to another falun gong propaganda group.

  36. Helen Li Says:

    There are many good points raised here already. I just want to add that spritualism, religion, compassion, love and all that jazz is VERY prevalent in all forms of Chinese art, especially our beloved operas of all provinces. I olden days, when there was widespread illiteracy, those operas, penny fiction, street corner story telling and singing etc were all vital in educating the masses in morality, filial piety, honesty, patriotism, love, hard work and so forth. And we love them all. This Divine thingy, however, is another kettle of fish. It is the most embarrassing, cring-worthy, self-righteous, stilted, garish art performance I have ever seen in my life. I am a Hong Kong Chinese, born and bred; and I went to see it after believing all the hype in the Epoch Times (how stupid can one get.) It is a total fraud. When you become actually angry DURING the show, you really don’t have the patience to appreciate some of the “redeeming” features, as I am sure there are. The Epoch Times keep accussing the communist Chinese (of whom I am NOT a fan of) of dishonesty, lying, exaggeration; but what they do, week after week, in devoting pages and pages of “critical acclaim” of the Divine troupe, is no better than the usual communist tripe. What gets my goats is the ink given to “VIP’s) “praise” of the show. Ooooh, they are invariably governors, senators, famous conductors, writers. Apparently, if you are a humble cleaner or bus driver, they won’t be interested in you at all. Is that what they call “compassion,” “love,” and “tolerance” in action. Well, the communist Chinese are exactly the same, they only want to talk to rich, powerful people. Plague on both their houses, I say.

  37. Ying Says:

    I just want everyone know my personal experience about the FLG. My mother is a big folloer of the CULT. Now her marriage is damaged, her relationship with me is damaged as well. She is not interested in anything except her cult. She is not my loving mother anymore.

    Additionally, I just wondering, if they told people what the show is really about, how many people would spend their money to see it? I almost went to the show because I wanted to celebrate Chinese new year in U.S. Luckily, my father knew the sponser and stoped me.

  38. Review – Tribute to Diaghilev – “International Stars” and Royal Ballet members at Royal Opera House « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] there going to be speeches? Was it a way of promoting Russian culture? Was everything going to go Fa Lun Gung and leave me sneaking out the back between sets? I couldn’t tell, but since I love flashy […]

  39. J. Smith Says:

    I saw this performance at the Kennedy Center in D.C. today. I must agree with Webcow’s review. By about halfway through the show, I realized that this was art being used as religious indoctrination and propaganda. I was shocked and dismayed as an increasing number of the performances repeated the same religious themes over and over. I knew nothing about Dafu or Fulan Gong before going to this performance but I began to feel like I was watching a fundamentalist religious group and I grew ever more uncomfortable. Shame on you Kennedy Center for this. People would be outraged if the Kennedy Center Opera House stage was given over to fundamentalist Christians or Islamists spreading a religious agenda in the name of art.

  40. so.T.o CN Says:

    I just want to say, one-sided words are not credible, because I am a Chinese, I love my country, similar to the Falun Gong cult has been in China this disappeared, no longer deceive the Chinese people

  41. eugene Says:

    THE SHOW IS A COMPLETE DISGRACE
    Beware everyone: you will be wasting your money on an inflated low quality politically charged show.
    I watched it in Phila last week. The very fact that Academy of Music stage was desecrated by tenors/sopranos/altos singing in full opera timber about Red doctrine fighting Dafa that is spreading over the world shocked me. There is no real choreography or direction rising above a high school variety show. The orchestra sounded like a worn out recorded soundtrack. To be fair – individual skills of dancers vary, some deserve appreciation. This group about which I heard nothing before the show is very aggressively marketing itself.
    The number of positive reviews on the web demonstrates the energy with which its members promote it.
    The show has nothing to do with China – they come from New York, the only thing that makes it Chinese is that it is anti-China, and the performers are members of Chinese immigrant community and thus is China-like. For the sake of clarification, I am all for human rights, I am anti-communist and have no love at all for the Chinese political establishment. But I am against selling something as profane as political slogan and propaganda for high art.
    This show is not art – it is political and religious demonstration masquerading itself as an artistic happening.

  42. Caitlyn Says:

    Shen Yun put on an amazing show! I loved every minute of it. As someone who has studied Chinese history, I understand that showcasing authentic Chinese culture without displaying things from Buddhism would be like trying to give an overview of the Middle Ages without mentioning God, or the power held by the Catholic church. Chinese culture has been so intertwined with religion that anything less would be inaccurate.

    As for the few short Falun Gong parts, I wasn’t put off at all. In my opinion, neither should anyone else.

    • webcowgirl Says:

      I’ve studied Chinese history too, but there is no justification for those terrible “I love Falun Gung” songs, and at least two of the pieces were pure (modern) propaganda. I’m sorry, but this show crossed the line from arts display to religious revival – not historical, but modern, and I do not go to “arts” events to be preached to.

  43. TikiMon Says:

    Total agreement! I was even pounced on to be interviewed on video after the performance, looking for some gushing audience reaction. This is a complete SCAM! Bait and switch!

    What horrifies me is that NONE of the event pages for this travesty claim it’s anything but an entertainment performance! Money talking there, O mercenary venues!

  44. Bao Says:

    I wasn’t aware of the fact that the sponsor is a Fa Lun Gong follower until I read this blog.
    But if it is fact, I can still understand the likeliness of it being true.
    However, I’m not surprised at all that one person, group, or entity has interests in many other entities or ideas. So I’m not upset.

    I do want to make one point clear:
    Fa Lun, and Fa Lun Gong is not a one to one relationship. (one does not exclusively belong to the other)

    Fa Lun means The Law or The Way or The Path or The Nature or The Mechanism or The Method.

    “Fa Lun Gong” means the effort taken to follow “The Way”
    but in the case, “Fa Lun Gong” is a title/name of an entity.

    ie. I can be a follower of Fa Lun, the idea, without being a supporter of “Fa Lun Gong”, the entity.

    In conclusion, please understand we live in a world full of hierarchies.
    It is naturally so, just like a tree, a solar system, a river system, a banking system, a respiratory system, a circulatory system.

    Perhaps it is the way after all. Try googling: fractal geometry

    • webcowgirl Says:

      Hmm. I think you sound like a bit of a nutter and you’re not really addressing my issue with this show, which is that it was sold as about Chinese arts, but it’s really about promoting a religion.

  45. A year in blogging – Webcowgirl’s most popular posts of 2011 – and tips for improving your blog stats « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] Shen Yu “Divine Performing Arts” Ensemble – Chinese Art Spectacular – Royal …1,162 […]

  46. New York Says:

    Oh Gawd! I have just agreed to pay $100 to go to one of these things a few weeks from now. I was squirming at the heavy-handed way we were conned into buying the tickets in the first place (kind invitation to an innocuous presentation about ‘Chinese Culture and History’ slowly but unsubtly morphs into a presentation citing rave reviews of this theater spectacle!!!)

    About as subtle as fart in a sleeping bag.

    Now it looks like I’ll have plenty more squirming ahead of me….

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