On March 3, 2017, the Globe and Mail posted an article written by Martha Schabas, Inside Shen Yun’s delicate dance between politics and the stage. Martha Schabas pointed out that Shen Yun, The New York performing arts company founded by Falun Gong, has been controversial since its inception. But in fact, politics weigh their show down.
Martha Schabas, Dance Critic & Arts Writer at The Globe and Mail. Author of Various Positions (Doubleday Canada/FSG/Text-Penguin)
Intrigued by Shen Yun’s grandiose advertisements in the Greater Toronto Area in the past few months, the author wanted to see Shen Yun for herself. But after the show, she founded that “Shen Yun feels gauchely politically motivated – a fact that many audience members might not have known when they bought their expensive tickets.”
From her point of view, the show “lacked both in content and structure…Even forgiving the didacticism of the hosts, the show’s ability to provide any real immersion into the atmosphere of the history of China was undermined by its background screen”.
Moreover, the show included more than a few “overtly political pieces”. “In Boundless Compassion, the narrative gets even stranger…The screen depicts a modern cityscape where there’s a sudden explosion of mushroom-cloud proportions. As skyscrapers and neighbourhoods crumble into dust, a godlike figure appears in a halo of white light. The dust dissipates and the screen becomes saturated in rings of gold chroma. The dead Falun Gong practitioners come back to life, instantly resurrected.”
And “the religious lyrics appeared in giant print in Mandarin and English on the screen behind the performers; they’re also printed in the program.”
The dancer in white holding the “Bible”of Falun Gong appeared as a bodhisattva
In the end, Martha Schabas concluded, “having “seen it all” was exactly how I felt after this long, tiresome evening in which the pieces felt so similar, so beholden to the same production values and set on achieving the same Disney field effect, that one became indistinguishable from the next. More troubling is that the unsettling religious-political content isn’t advertised on any of the billboards. There was a sense of having been lured by the promise of lost traditional art, only to have the Falun Gong’s proselytizing snuck in between the scenes.”
About the Author:
Martha Schabas’ articles, book reviews and fiction have appeared in The Globe and Mail, The New Quarterly, ELLE Canada, Broken Pencil, and Maisonneuve. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from Queen’s University, and an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, where she received the David Higham Literary Award. In 2012, CBC Books named Martha one of the “10 Canadian women writers you need to read now.” She lives in Toronto.