Everywhere you turn these days, along with signs of Christmas, you see Shen Yun. If you don’t know the name, you will realize who they are when I tell you that it’s a Chinese dance company. They are inescapable: posters, car cards, broadcast ads, mailed brochures and people on street corners handing out pamphlets. The money behind the show must be amazing.
Shen Yun seems to come through southern Ontario more than once a year. They have thirteen performances scheduled between now and early March in Toronto, Kitchener, Hamilton and Mississauga. They are not from China. In fact, the group (there must be several on world tour) are associated with and promote Falun Gong, the same bunch that has been protesting outside the Chinese Embassy for years. Falun Gong is illegal in China where it is regarded as a cult.
I got two free tickets for the show a while back, and, Scotsman that I am, attended. What a mistake. The dancing is fine although I have no idea how realistically the troupe follows the ancient ways and legends. A lot of it just seemed like two sides fighting to me. Between scenes two people come on stage to read lengthy propaganda screeds.
I ended up paying anyway. Because I had freebies, at intermission I was accosted in my seat by a young Chinese woman with a microphone and a video camera who asked how I liked the show. Canadian that I am, I warbled some fine phrases that I did not mean. I later saw praise by a Member of Parliament quoted in the advertising; I can only assume he sang for his supper, too. My advice? Stay home for supper.