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Friday, January 06, 2012

Shen Yun Stages Its Own Chinese Cultural Revolution on a Grand Scale

China is living through an intellectual and creative dark age. While the nation's economy booms and consumer culture thrives, the totalitarian government has "overhauled" the nation's arts communities to bring them in line with its political dogma. Historical relics and traditions have been destroyed or suppressed because they are seen as obstacles to progress. Yet 5-millennia-old tradition in a country of more than 1 billion people dies hard, and there is an active resistance. This week its name is Shen Yun. The New York-based arts group, whose name translates to "the beauty of divine beings dancing," was formed in 2006 to preserve and present traditional Chinese dance and music. It now has more than 200 performers, including dancers, vocalists, and an orchestra. It performs at the War Memorial Opera House through Sunday.

​Among the instruments used is the two-stringed erhu, sometimes called the Chinese violin.

Shen Yun employs stunning costumes, sets, and dance moves, and uses bilingual hosts and subtitles to explain the content of the pieces. Its online FAQ answers questions such as "What should I wear?" and "Why would I enjoy a Chinese show?"

Some people have criticized the group for covertly promoting the dissident Buddhist spiritual practice known as Falun Gong. But based on what we know about this sect, the worst that might happen is you begin to pursue better health and spiritual enlightenment after seeing an amazing show. Sounds like a good start to 2012 to us.

Shen Yun performs through Jan. 8 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is $60-$220.

Shen Yun will play at the Vancouver Queen Elizabeth Theatre Feb.3-5.

More at SFWeekly

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