Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Local host of Shen Yun Performing Arts says Minister acted punitively
CALGARY—Alberta’s Minister of Culture and Community Services, Heather Klimchuk, responded to recent complaints of professional misconduct at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium by canceling future performances by internationally acclaimed Shen Yun Performing Arts.
The Calgary Falun Dafa Association, who is the presenting organization of Shen Yun in Calgary, raised the complaints in an April 16 news release. In a response addressed to the group, Klimchuk said that she was concerned that the presenters brought complaints to the public, and concluded that she would cancel previously booked performances in both Calgary and Edmonton.
Jenny Yang, a spokesperson for the presenting organization said, “The Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium is a taxpayer-funded venue whose purpose is to serve the public and enrich the cultural experience of Albertans. When a world-class arts company feels that it can no longer perform in Calgary due solely to the conduct of auditorium management, we believe that is an issue in the public interest. We informed the media of the situation only after our repeated requests for meetings failed.”
“That the Minister would act punitively against us for raising a public issue to the media is unbecoming of someone in her position. This is all the more true of performances in Edmonton, which are hosted by our sister organization, and where there are no complaints concerning the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.”
Based in New York, Shen Yun has performed to audience acclaim in hundreds of cities internationally since its founding in 2006, and has graced the stages of the world’s most prestigious theaters and opera houses. The company’s mission is to revive the essence of China’s 5,000-year-old traditional culture through classical Chinese dance and music. It has performed annually at the government-owned Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium since 2007, where its performances have been consistently well received.
Since 2010, however, Shen Yun management has been dismayed by a marked deterioration in the professionalism and conduct of auditorium staff. These developments coincided with revelations that the consulate of the People’s Republic of China had sought to disrupt the performance by applying diplomatic pressure on the government of Alberta.
During its April 2012 performances in particular, the shows were marred by a glaring technical malfunction, as well as an incident where a male stage crew member opened the door of a loading dock that revealed the female change room area, exposing undressing female dancers to several male crew members. When confronted over these and other lapses, auditorium management was condescending and unapologetic. For several years, the theater has also refused to compromise on the placement of an intrusive orchestra pit safety net that impedes the performance.
The Falun Dafa Association of Calgary requested a meeting with the Minister of Culture several times in 2010 to resolve concerns about the safety net. Since 2010, the local presenters have documented nearly a dozen attempts to request a meeting with the Minister about other issues. In all cases the Minister of Culture either ignored or declined the meeting request. The presenters again contacted the Minister’s office in April 2012 to resolve the recent issues, but did not receive a reply. Finally, the Falun Dafa Association presented its cause in a media release outlining our concerns, and also contacted elected representatives for assistance.
In media interviews that followed, theater management indicated that they would resolve the matter privately with the presenter. However, we received no correspondence from either the theater or the Minister of Culture.
When the Minister inquired about the company’s complaints with the Jubilee Auditorium, she concluded that because the presenters had raised their complaints in the media “we may have missed an opportunity to resolve these issues efficiently and effectively.”
“The Government of Alberta should be accountable for what happened in the theatre. We have been requesting a meeting with officials in the ministry for years to address our valid concerns but have been ignored. We felt we had no choice but to raise these issues with the public,” said Yang. “We are requesting that the Southern Jubilee Auditorium apologize to Shen Yun for the misconduct, invite them to return, and to remove the net over the orchestra pit for future performances.”
The Falun Dafa Associations of both cities call on the Minister to act on the interests of Albertans and work toward a resolution on this issue, such that the people of Alberta may continue to enjoy the experience of Shen Yun Performing Arts.