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Shen Yun Chinese dancers at Cobb Energy Centre

shenyun1

A dancer performs with Shen Yun, a Chinese music and dance troupe that comes to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre this week.

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?

Here’s a promo video:

Want to go? Shen Yun performs. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16, 2 p.m. Jan. 17. $39-$12o. Cobb Energy Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 770-916-2800, www.cobbenergycentre.com.

For instant update, follow @insideaccess on Twitter.

21 comments Add your comment

Jamie Gumbrecht

January 20th, 2010
5:40 pm

RJ and others — Here’s a statement that I received today via e-mail:

“On behalf of the presenting organizations, we acknowledge the concerns expressed by some attendees at the Shen Yun performances regarding the sensitive content in certain sections of the show. As in years past, our brochures, window posters, website and press releases disclosed the show’s presenting organizations, New Times Cultural and Education Center, Inc. (NTCEC) and the Southeast US Falun Dafa Association—they have presented the show since it began appearing in Atlanta, four years ago.

In the future we will consider adding information to our materials that references the show’s content. We hope this has addressed your concerns.”

I should add, too, that this actually dropped into my inbox just after 2 p.m., but I’ve been leading training sessions today and this is the first chance I’ve had to dig into e-mail. I’m going to put up another post about this soon, too. Lots to discuss.

RJ

January 20th, 2010
5:27 pm

Jamie, the silence is deafening. Not surprised the spokeswoman at the Cobb Energy Centre never returned your call. They never replied to my email either. Guess they’ll write us off as a tempest-in-a-teapot and go on their merry way. Such a shame that such a sham gets a free pass…

Northern Californian

January 20th, 2010
4:56 pm

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.” I don’t think Mao himself ever arranged such a heavy-handed act, and I really dislike Mao. He was an awful man.

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.

RJ

January 19th, 2010
2:35 pm

Thanks, Jamie. It will be very interesting to hear what they have to say!

Jamie Gumbrecht

January 19th, 2010
1:44 pm

RJ and others — I put a call into the spokeswoman for Cobb Energy Centre to check on the feedback they’re getting and what response they’ve got. I’ll let you know when I hear something.

RJ

January 19th, 2010
12:59 pm

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.

P.S. Here is another review I found after-the-fact. It really hits the nail on the head: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/3671451/Shen-Yun-Propaganda-as-entertainment.html

Jamie Gumbrecht

January 19th, 2010
9:17 am

Interesting point, KJ — as I mentioned, this is the first time the show has marketed itself outside Asian communities in Atlanta. This could be a case of misleading audiences, as some suggest, or it could be a miscalculation of how to approach a broader U.S. audience. I think you’re right — there are a lot of people that might be interested in something more obviously political, but most wouldn’t have known from the billboards or commercials that this show includes any of it.

KJ

January 19th, 2010
8:31 am

Cheesy with a side of creepy. The giant projection screen behind the dancers being one of the main “distractions” from the show. It reminded me of a powerpoint presentation on an 80 foot monitor, and at times I felt I was at Six Flags, watching summer interns put on a musical. Although people have used books, poetry, plays and movies for political influence, I agree that this event was not advertised as such. Even adding a sentence to the brochure that said “experiencing the beauty and the political struggle within China”, at least we’d have had a clue that we’re going to get more than pretty costumes and dancing (like beating a mother to death in front of her daughter, set to music). There were some great dancers on the stage, I won’t argue that some of the spins, flips and dance steps were truly beautiful to watch, but I did feel that the many of the scenes were fairly repetitive and my eyelids grew heavy during a couple acts. I would have rather watched a high school drumline that watch their drummer routine, and I wish they would have had an ancient chinese archer hitting moving targets from 100 feet rather than the 20 or so dancing archers twanging their empty bows (yawn).

We were entertained, but we wouldn’t go again.

My recommendation for the show’s creators.. If you want to focus on the message and political struggle, do it. The world would write rave reviews about a play or show that took an issue straight on. You probably couldn’t do the show in China or that would be the last show, but I believe the rest of the world prefers an “in your face” approach. State your message and stir it up.

Marilee Coughlin

January 18th, 2010
11:48 am

My friedn and i were taken in by the beautiful ads and flyers handed out at the mall – we bought tickets to see the show on Sunday, January 17th. While the dancers are fabulous, and the costumes are gorgeous, I felt like I was at a revival or brain-washing session. The operatic performances were Falun Gong “hymns” – with the lyrics in English on the large screen. The two pieces showing the oppression of the Falun Gong in China were strange – it was billed as a family show, but I question whether children should see a show where a mother and child are beaten by black-shirted men and the mother dragged off stage, apparently dead – then on the garish screen, she can be seen “ascending” accompanied by monks. Creepy sums up parts of the show quite well.

We really felt like we had been mislead – this was religious / polical propaganda presented to an unsuspecting public as entertainment.

Marilee Coughlin

Margaret Witten

January 15th, 2010
9:22 am

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 Falung 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 Falung 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 Falung 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