Shen Yun Performing Arts

Shen Yun Performing Arts
Company logo
Traditional Chinese 神韻藝術團
Simplified Chinese 神韵艺术团

Shen Yun Performing Arts, formerly known as Divine Performing Arts, is a performing arts and entertainment company based in New York City.[1] It performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance,[2] and story-based dance.[3]

Founded in 2006, the Shen Yun troupe is often associated with the Falun Gong spiritual practice,[4][5] and performances around the world are hosted by local Falun Dafa Associations. Kelly Wen, Master of Ceremonies for Shen Yun, stated that the underlying idea of the performance is to "revive the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture", which Wen described as a lost art destroyed by the Chinese communist government.[6]

Among others, the show has been praised by Broadway critic Richard Connema, who gave it five stars[7], while other reviews, such as The Guardian, criticised the show for promoting Falun Gong without saying so explicitly enough.[8][9][10]

According to a press release in The New York Times, Shen Yun has more than 200 members and perform seven months a year. The show's acts and production staff are trained at Shen Yun’s headquarters in Cuddebackville, in Orange County, New York.[11]



Shen Yun shows feature traditional Chinese dance and song. A January 2010 seven-show run of Shen Yun at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, DC, consisted of twenty-two vignettes with colorful costumes, dancing, and "thrilling operatic singing".[12] The 2008 shows in Denver were composed of sixty dancers, singers and musicians,[5] though the size of each company varies. The 2007 shows in San Francisco contained sixteen[13] different acts, consisting of traditional dancing and martial arts displays.[4] The acts are presented in both Chinese and the local language.[13] Each act is accompanied by a wide, projected backdrop that provides animation of "mountain scenes with snow, village scenes with rising smoke, countryside landscapes, and palaces."[13]In addition to the live orchestra accompanying each performance, there are several acts depicting live traditional Chinese instruments, like pipa and erhu.

Shen Yun enacts three distinct forms of Chinese dance in its performances: classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance (for instance, dances of China's Dai and Mongolian ethnic minorities[2]), and story-based dance, presenting classic Chinese stories such as the legend of Mulan.[3]

Aside from the dance pieces, there is also a live orchestra of Chinese and Western instruments.[3] The songs are in Chinese, but the lyrics, both in Chinese and the local language where the performance is being held, are projected onto a backdrop revealing the performances' themes, "dealing often with historical movements and their devoted disciples."[2][13]

The group is composed of three performing arts companies: The New York Company, The Touring Company, and the International Company, which typically tour different parts of the world consecutively. Each year the Shen Yun Performing Arts show tours several countries, performing across Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia. Shen Yun's shows have been staged in several leading stages, including New York’s Radio City Music Hall, New York'sThe David H. Koch Theater, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Washington DC’s Kennedy Center, and Paris’ Le Palais de Congrès[5] [14]


The Epoch Times and Shen Yun had accused the Chinese government of interfering in their performances through their overseas embassies.[15][16]

In late January 2010, the government of Hong Kong refused entry visas for members of the production crew for the troupe's performances scheduled between 27 and 31 January, saying that "work visas were considered case by case", and said the applicant generally had to offer expertise not easily found locally; the troupe cancelled the performances which it claimed to have been sold out. Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho said the denial of the visas was a worrying new erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms, and damaged the reputation of Hong Kong as a liberal and open society.[17]

Similar diplomatic pressures in Moldova forced theaters to pull Shen Yun's performances.[18][19]

The Chinese embassy in the United States accused NTDTV and Shen Yun Performing Arts of being used to "spread anti-China propaganda" and "distorting Chinese culture".[20]

Show names

Initially the shows were titled "Chinese Spectacular",[4] [5] "Holiday Wonders",[21], Chinese New Year Splendor, and "Divine Performing Arts", but now the company mostly performs under its own name "Shen Yun".


The San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post and San Francisco Bay Times billed the show positively, the Chronicle exploring scenes in the performance depicting Falun Gong.[4][13] Richard Connema, San Francisco critic for Talkin' Broadway, was interviewed by NTDTV and described the Shen Yun performance as "absolutely fantastic," and gave it five stars.[7] Opera Online described one performance as "simply astounding to watch and a pleasure to the ear."[22]

Other reviewers have said that past Shen Yun shows were not advertised explicitly enough as being inspired by Falun Gong philosophy, yet contained scenes depicting the persecution of its practitioners in China: a heavily critical piece in The New York Times in 2008 raised these objections about allegedly misleading promotion;[23] while similar opinions were put forward by the Daily Telegraph, the Toronto Star, and The Guardian. The Telegraph's reviewer described the "politically motivated" content as "propaganda as entertainment,"[9] while the others echoed those sentiments.[8][10] A reviewer of the Buffalo News argued that while the show is laudable in bringing public attention to the human rights abuse by the Chinese government, it misrepresented itself in its promotion efforts, making little mention of its Falun Gong connections.[24] A local dance expert responded to the negative review, arguing that he had "missed the entire point and theme of the performance," and asserting that "it is the job of an artist to communicate thoughts and ideas."[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Mission". Retrieved 15 November 2009.  The Mission statement of Shen Yun Performing Arts
  2. ^ a b c Wesnousky, Jennifer (16 February 2007). "NTDTV's Chinese New Year Spectacular". Explore Dance. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c "International Incident". The Pacific Northwest Inlander. Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hunt, Mary Ellen (4 January 2009). "Chinese New Year Spectacular in S.F., Cupertino". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d Wenzel, John (1 October 2007). "Chinese New Year embracing tradition". The Denver Post. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  6. ^ CNN VIDEO on Shen Yun: Chinese Culture Alive in U.S. August 28, 2010
  7. ^ a b "Theater Critic Calls DPA 'Mind-Blowing'". The Epoch Times. 10 January 2009. [unreliable source?]
  8. ^ a b Mackrell, Judith (25 February 2008). "Dance review: Shen Yun Royal Festival Hall, London". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2009. 
  9. ^ a b Crompton, Sue (25 February 2008). "Shen Yun: Propaganda as entertainment". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 April 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Susan Walker (Falun) Gong New Year event mere propaganda, The Toronto Star, 20 January 2008
  11. ^ The New York Times: 5,000 Years of Chinese Music and Dance, in One Night. August 13, 2010.
  12. ^ Sparacino, Micaele (19 January 2010). "Deities, Dragons, Dancers, and Divas". Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Goodwyn, Albert (11 January 2007). "Chinese New Year Spectacular". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  14. ^ "Shen Yun Performing Arts 2009 World tour special coverage". Epoch Times. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  15. ^ Epoch Times Article, Hans Bengtsson, Mar 28, 2009, "Empty Threats From The Chinese Embassy Backfire"
  16. ^ Epoch Times Article, Joshua Philipp, Jun 4, 2010, "Despite Chinese Regime Pressure, The Show Goes On"
  17. ^ Falungong decries HK as democracy row deepens, 27 January 2010 (AFP)
  18. ^ Epoch Times Article, Leeshai Lemish, May 30, 2010,"Shen Yun Locked Out in Moldova, a First-Person Account"
  19. ^ Epoch Times Article, Epoch Times Staff, May 25, 2010, "Chinese Regime Pressures Moldovan Theater to Close Doors to Shen Yun"
  20. ^ "Enjoy the Holidays and Stay away from the so-called "Chinese New Year Gala" of the New Tang Dynasty Television". Chinese Embassy in the United States of America. 7 January 2008. 
  21. ^ Higgins, Beau (15 November 2007). "'Holiday Wonders' Chinese Meets West Extravaganza". Broadway World. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  22. ^ "Boston welcomes Year of the Dog with Gala multi-cultural celebration at Cutler Majestic". Opera Online. Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  23. ^ Konigsberg, Eric (6 February 2008). "A Glimpse of Chinese Culture That Some Find Hard to Watch". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Dabkowski, Colin (30 May 2010). "Song & dance spectacular not exactly what it seems". Buffalo News. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  25. ^ Skora, Cathy (28 May 2010). "Shen Yun a Universal Theme (a reader responds)". Buffalo News. Retrieved 25 June 2010. 

External links

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