Shen Yun Performing Arts
|Dance company and Symphony Orchestra|
|Headquarters||Cuddebackville, New York|
|Divisions||New York Company, International Company, Touring Company, World Company|
|Shen Yun Performing Arts|
Shen Yun Performing Arts is a performing-arts and entertainment company formed in New York City. It performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance, and story-based dance, with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. The Shen Yun website translates the phrase shen yun as "the beauty of divine beings dancing".
Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline, with the mission of reviving "the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture," which it states to have been nearly destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party government. Performances around the world are hosted by local Falun Dafa Associations.
The group is composed of four performing arts companies: The New York Company, The Touring Company, The International 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. Shen Yun's shows have been staged at New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, London’s Royal Festival Hall, Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, Paris' Palais des Congrès. The company has performed extensively in Taiwan, 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.
In 2006, a group of expatriate Chinese Falun Gong practitioners living in North America founded Shen Yun in New York. The stated purpose of the company was to revive Chinese culture and traditions from the time before the Chinese Communist government.
In 2007, company conducted its first tour with 90 dancers, musicians, soloists, and production staff.
Early shows were titled "Chinese Spectacular", "Holiday Wonders", "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.
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. Bilingual MCs introduce each performance in Mandarin and in local languages.
Large-scale group dance is at the center of Shen Yun productions. 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.
Shen Yun’s repertoire draws on stories from Chinese history and legends, such as legend of Mulan, Journey to the West and Outlaws of the Marsh. It also depicts “the story of Falun Gong today”. 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). 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,  and that the dancers must "refine their moral character" in order to portray traditional Chinese culture".
Shen Yun dances are accompanied by a Western philharmonic orchestra that integrates several traditional Chinese instruments, including the pipa, suona, dizi, guzheng, and a variety of Chinese percussion instruments. There are solo performances featuring Chinese instruments such as the erhu. Interspersed between dance sequences are operatic singers performing songs which sometimes invoke spiritual or religious themes, including references to the Falun Gong faith. A performance in 2007, for instance, included reference to the Chakravartin, a figure in Buddhism who turns the wheel of Dharma.
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.
Costume and backdrops
Shen Yun’s dancers perform wearing intricate costumes, often accompanied by a variety of props. Some costumes are intended to imitate the dress of various ethnicities, while other depict ancient Chinese court dancers, soldiers, or characters from classic stories. Props include colorful handkerchiefs, drums, fans, chopsticks, or silk scarves.
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. Some backdrops contain moving elements that integrate with the performance.
Lead dancers, musicians, and solo performers include the following:
Choreographers, composers, and conductors
Billing and promotion
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. 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. Some journalists have raised objections about the show's promotion strategy, which does not always clearly note the religious-themed content of the performance.
Shen Yun's four companies tour for seven months each year, performing in over 130 cities in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Latin America. Notable venues include the London Colosseum in London, England; the Palaise de Congres in Paris; the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington DC; and the David H. Koch theater at New York's Lincoln Center. By the conclusion of Shen Yun's 2010 performance, an estimated one million people had seen the performance worldwide.
Shen Yun does not perform in mainland China. The Chinese government has attempted to cancel Shen Yun performances through political pressure via its foreign embassies and consulates. 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." 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. 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.
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. The decision was overturned in March of the same year, but the company has yet to return.
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.
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.
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Shen Yun literally translates as: The beauty of divine beings dancing.
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