Shen Yun Performing Arts

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Shen Yun Performing Arts
Dance company and symphony orchestra
Founded 2006
Headquarters Cuddebackville, New York, U.S.
Area served
Divisions New York Company, International Company, Touring Company, World Company
Shen Yun Performing Arts
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 神韻藝術團
Simplified Chinese 神韵艺术团
Japanese name
Hiragana しんいんげいじゅつだん
Shinjitai 神韻芸術団

Shen Yun Performing Arts is a performing-arts and entertainment company formed in New York City and headquartered in Cuddebackville, Orange County, New York, in the Hudson Valley.[1] It performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance, and story-based dance,[2] with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. The Shen Yun website translates the phrase shen yun as "the beauty of divine beings dancing".[3]

Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline,[4][5] with the mission of reviving "the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture", which it claims to have been nearly destroyed since the start of the Cultural Revolution by the Communist Party of China.[6][7] Performances around the world are hosted by local Falun Dafa associations. The performances contain significantly religious content.

The group is composed of five performing arts companies: The New York Company, The Touring Company, The International Company, The North America Company, and The World Company, with of a total of about 200 performers. For seven months a year, Shen Yun Performing Arts tours to over 130 cities across Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia.[8] Shen Yun's shows have been staged at prominent venues including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan,[9] London’s Royal Festival Hall, Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, and Paris' Palais des Congrès.[5] The company has performed extensively in Taiwan,[10] but has yet to perform in Mainland China or Hong Kong. The show's acts and production staff are trained at Shen Yun’s headquarters in Cuddebackville, in Orange County, New York, north of New York City.[8]


In 2006, a group of expatriate Chinese Falun Gong practitioners living in North America founded Shen Yun in New York.[11] The stated purpose of the company was to revive Chinese culture and traditions from the time before Communist rule[citation needed].

In 2007, the company conducted its first tour with 90 dancers, musicians, soloists, and production staff.[12]

Early shows were titled "Chinese Spectacular",[4][5] "Holiday Wonders",[13] "Chinese New Year Splendor", and "Divine Performing Arts", but now the company performs exclusively under the name "Shen Yun". As of 2009, Shen Yun had developed three full companies and orchestras that tour the world simultaneously.

By the end of the 2010 season, approximately one million people had seen the troupe perform.[8]

Billing and promotion[edit]

Shen Yun promotes itself as "a presentation of traditional Chinese culture as it once was: a study in grace, wisdom, and virtues distilled from five millennia of Chinese civilization". The company is described in promotions as reviving Chinese culture following a period of assault and destruction under the Chinese Communist Party.[6][7] Shen Yun is heavily promoted in major cities with commercials, billboards, and brochures displayed in the streets and in businesses, as well as in television and radio profiles.

Shen Yun performances are often produced or sponsored by regional Falun Dafa associations, and are promoted by practitioners of the spiritual practice, which is persecuted in China.[11] Some journalists have raised objections about the show's promotion strategy, which does not always clearly note the religious-themed content of the performance.[14][15][16]


Each year, Shen Yun creates original 2 1/2-hour productions. Each consists of approximately 20 vignettes featuring classical Chinese dance, ethnic dance, solo musicians and operatic singing.[8][17] Bilingual MCs introduce each performance in Mandarin and in local languages.[8][18]


Large-scale group dance is at the center of Shen Yun productions.[5] Each touring company consists of about 40 male and female dancers, who mainly perform classical Chinese dance, which has been passed down through thousands of years and makes extensive use of acrobatic and tumbling techniques, forms and postures.[12]

Shen Yun’s repertoire draws on stories from Chinese history and legends, such as the legend of Mulan,[2] Journey to the West and Outlaws of the Marsh. It also depicts “the story of Falun Gong today”.[19] During the 2010 production at least two of the 16 scenes depicted "persecution and murder of Falun Gong practitioners" in contemporary China, including the beating of a young mother to death, and the jailing of a Falun Gong protester. In addition to classical Han Chinese dance, Shen Yun also includes elements of Yi, Miao, Tibetan and Mongolian dance.

Shen Yun performs three core elements of classical Chinese dance: bearing (emotion, cultural and ethnic flavor), form (expressive movements and postures), and technical skill (physical techniques of jumping, flipping, and leaping).[4] Shen Yun choreographer Vina Lee has stated that some of the distinct Chinese bearing (yun) has been "lost in the process" since the cultural changes of the Communist revolution,[4] and that the dancers must "refine their moral character" in order to portray traditional Chinese culture".[20]


Shen Yun dances are accompanied by a Western classical orchestra that integrates several traditional Chinese instruments, including the pipa, suona, dizi, guzheng, and a variety of Chinese percussion instruments.[8][21] There are solo performances featuring Chinese instruments such as the erhu.[4][17] Interspersed between dance sequences are operatic singers performing songs which sometimes invoke spiritual or religious themes, including references to the Falun Gong faith.[8][22] A performance in 2007, for instance, included a reference to the Chakravartin, a figure in Buddhism who turns the wheel of Dharma.[23]

Three of Shen Yun's performers—flutist Ningfang Chen, erhuist Mei Xuan and tenor Guan Guimin—were recipients of the Chinese Ministry of Culture’s “National First Class Performer” awards. Prior to joining Shen Yun, Guan Guimin was well known in China for his work on soundtracks for more than 50 movies and television shows. Other notable performers include erhu soloist Xiaochun Qi.[24]

Costume and backdrops[edit]

Shen Yun’s dancers perform wearing intricate costumes, often accompanied by a variety of props.[4][8] Some costumes are intended to imitate the dress of various ethnicities, while others depict ancient Chinese court dancers, soldiers, or characters from classic stories.[4] Props include colorful handkerchiefs, drums,[4] fans, chopsticks, or silk scarves.[19][25]

Each Shen Yun piece is set against a digitally projected backdrop, usually depicting landscapes such as Mongolian grasslands, imperial courts, ancient villages, temples, or mountains.[8][18][26] Some backdrops contain moving elements that integrate with the performance.[25]


Lead dancers, musicians, and solo performers include the following:

Principal dancers[edit]

Orchestral musicians[edit]


Choreographers, composers, and conductors[edit]


Shen Yun's five companies tour for seven months each year, performing in over 130 cities in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America.[8] Notable venues include the David H. Koch Theater at New York's Lincoln Center in Manhattan;[27] the London Coliseum in London, England; the Palais des congrès de Paris; and the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C. By the conclusion of Shen Yun's 2010 performance, an estimated one million people had seen the performance worldwide.[8]

Shen Yun does not perform in China. The Chinese government has attempted to cancel Shen Yun performances through political pressure via its foreign embassies and consulates.[28][29][30][31][32][33] Chinese diplomats have also sent letters to elected officials in the West exhorting them not to attend or otherwise support the performance, which they describe as "propaganda" intended to "smear China's image."[34][35] Members of the Communist Party's top political consultative body have also expressed concern that China's state-funded arts troupes have been less popular internationally than Shen Yun.[36] Shen Yun representatives say the Chinese government’s opposition to the show stems from its depictions of modern-day political oppression in China, as well as the fact that it includes expressions of traditional Chinese cultural history that the Communist government has tried to suppress.[37]

Shen Yun was scheduled to perform in Hong Kong in January 2010, but the performance was cancelled after the government of Hong Kong refused entry visas to Shen Yun's production crew.[38] The decision was overturned in March of the same year, but the company has yet to return.[39] Attempts to shut down the show have also been reported by theatres and local governments in various countries including Ecuador, Ireland, Germany and Sweden.[40]


Some reviews of the performances have been written by Gish Jen in The New Republic:,[41] the San Francisco Civic Center,[42] Rita in Arts & Entertainment,[43] and Jessica Gelt in the La Times.[44]

Symphony orchestra[edit]

In October 2012, Shen Yun's symphony orchestra made its debut performance at Carnegie Hall in New York. The performance featured conductors Milen Nachev, Keng-Wei Kuo, and Antonia Joy Wilson, and the program included both classical works such as Beethoven's Egmont Overture and Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto in C Major, as well as original compositions that fuse Chinese and Western instruments.[45]

In 2013 the symphony orchestra toured to seven American cities. In addition to Carnegie Hall, it performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A visual Feast of Haute Couture from Ancient China". Toronto Star, December 3, 2016, p. GT3
  2. ^ a b "International Incident". The Pacific Northwest Inlander. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2 December 2012. Shen Yun literally translates as: The beauty of divine beings dancing. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. ^ a b "The Chinese Communist Party's Culture and Arts - Shen Yun Performing Arts". Retrieved 2018-04-29. 
  7. ^ a b "The Cultural Revolution - Shen Yun Performing Arts". Retrieved 2018-04-29. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hodara, Susan. 5,000 Years of Chinese Music and Dance, in One Night. New York Times. 13 August 2010.
  9. ^ Elise Knutsen, ‘Shen Yun Performance Brings out Stars and Awareness’, New York Observer, 5 July 2011.
  10. ^ "Shen Yun Performing Arts 2009 World tour special coverage". Epoch Times. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  11. ^ a b Wright, E. Assata (22 December 2011). "Shen Yun returns". Hudson Reporter. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Adriana Rambay Fernandez, Dancing around the world, Hudson Reporter, 22 January 2012.
  13. ^ Higgins, Beau (15 November 2007). "'Holiday Wonders' Chinese Meets West Extravaganza". Broadway World. Retrieved 2009-09-05. 
  14. ^ Konigsberg, Eric (6 February 2008). "A Glimpse of Chinese Culture That Some Find Hard to Watch". The New York Times. 
  15. ^ Dabkowski, Colin (30 May 2010). "Song & dance spectacular not exactly what it seems". Buffalo News. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  16. ^ Pousner, Howard (17 January 2012). "Many Atlantans OK with Chinese dance troupe's politics". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Sparacino, Micaele (19 January 2010). "Deities, Dragons, Dancers, and Divas". Retrieved 29 January 2010. 
  18. ^ a b Goodwyn, Albert (11 January 2007). "Chinese New Year Spectacular". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 5 September 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Paula Citron. A dazzling show with a clear message. The Globe and Mail: Arts. 22 January 2008.
  20. ^ Maureesome of the n Scott, Shen Yun: 5,000 years of Chinese Culture and Civilization set to Song and Dance and the LAC, 23 January 2012.
  21. ^ Elina Shatkin. Vina leads Divine Performing Arts' Chinese New Year Spectacular. Los Angeles Times. 1 January 2009.
  22. ^ Citron, Paula (22 January 2008). "A dazzling show with a clear message". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  23. ^ Joel Markowitz, ‘January Pleasures’, DC Theatre Scene, 28 January 2007.
  24. ^ Robert Baxter, "New Year show, old traditions preserve Chinese culture," Courier Post, 30 December 2007.
  25. ^ a b Sid Smith, ‘Women flow like water in spectacle’, 28 January 2008.
  26. ^ Meredith Galante. A Day In The Life Of A Professional Dancer In A Traditional Chinese Company. Business Insider. 11 January 2012.
  27. ^ "Shen Yun Performing Arts Archived 27 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine. David H. Koch Theater.
  28. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2010 Report, 17 November 2010. US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  29. ^ Epoch Times Article, Hans Bengtsson, 28 March 2009, "Empty Threats From The Chinese Embassy Backfire"
  30. ^ Epoch Times Article, Joshua Philipp, 4 June 2010, "Despite Chinese Regime Pressure, The Show Goes On"
  31. ^ Moldova country report, 17 November 2010. US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  32. ^ Romania country report, 17 November 2010. US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  33. ^ Ukraine country report, 17 November 2010. US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
  34. ^ Keegan Hamilton, Chinese Government Kindly Reminds Seattle Officials About the 'Evil Cult' Coming to Town Archived 9 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Seattle Weekly, 6 February 2012.
  35. ^ "Chinese New Year Spectacular 'just propaganda': Chinese Embassy", Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 January 2007.
  36. ^ Li, Raymond (8 March 2013). "State-funded arts troupes fail to shine against Falun Gong rivals abroad". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  37. ^ Regina Weinreich (24 June 2011), Beauty and the Beast:Shen Yun at Lincoln Center. New York, The Huffington Post.
  38. ^ Agence-France Presse, Falungong decries HK as democracy row deepens, 27 January 2010.
  39. ^ Sonya Bryskine, Kong Court Upholds Freedom and Shen Yun, The Epoch Times, 10 March 2010.
  40. ^ Hune-Brown, Nicholas (12 December 2017). "The traditional Chinese dance troupe China doesn't want you to see". The Guardian. 
  41. ^ "Falun Gong Show". Retrieved 14 March 2018. 
  42. ^ "The Falun Gong Show Returns". Retrieved 14 March 2018. 
  43. ^ "The Falun Gong Show: SFist Goes To The NTDTV Chinese New Year". Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 14 March 2018. 
  44. ^ Gelt, Jessica. "Falun Gong, banned in China, finds a loud protest voice in the U.S. through Shen Yun dance troupe". Retrieved 14 March 2018. 
  45. ^ Carnegie Hall, Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra - Sunday, October 28, 2012 Archived 12 September 2014 at the Wayback Machine..

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]