Shen Yun Performing Arts is a non-profit performing arts and entertainment company based in the United States that tours internationally, producing dance performances and symphony concerts. The Falun Gong new religious movement runs it. She comprises eight equally large performing arts companies, totalling around 480 performers. Shen Yun has performed in front of millions of people and has toured over 200 cities in Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia. Yun was founded in 2006 by Chinese expatriate Falun Gong adherents in Deerpark, New York, northwest of New York City, near the new religious group’s leader and founder, Li Hongzhi, and many of his followers.
Shen Yun Controversy
According to the Shen Yun website, the name means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.” The show’s producers are a non-profit religious movement that relies entirely on volunteers. However, Shen Yun shows are banned in China and appear fraught with controversy.
Outside of China, the Shen Yun shows have continued the movement but appear to push a right-wing agenda. Aside from Shen Yun’s performances, they are also known for the Epoch Times, a far-right newspaper known for spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines and QAnon. Leader Li Hongzhi founded the movement in the early 1990s, drawing on Buddhism and Taoism.
Falun Gong practitioners seek spiritual ascension through meditation. The movement gained followers until the late 1990s; with 70 million practitioners, the Chinese Communist Party saw it as a threat. Falun Gong was outlawed in China, as was the Shen Yun Show, which promoted their “propaganda.”
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Shen Yun History
Shen Yun was founded in New York in 2006 by a group of expatriate Chinese Falun Gong practitioners. The company aimed to resurrect Chinese culture and traditions before the Chinese Revolution.
The company’s first tour, with 90 dancers, musicians, soloists, and production staff, took place in 2007. Early shows were called “Chinese Spectacular,” “Holiday Wonders,” “Chinese New Year Splendor,” and “Divine Performing Arts,” but the company now goes by the name “Shen Yun.” Shen Yun had created three entire companies and orchestras that toured the world at the same time by 2009.
Approximately one million people had seen the troupe perform by the end of the 2010 season. Shen Yun, The Epoch Times, and several other organisations are all extensions of the new religious movement Falun Gong. According to Los Angeles Magazine’s 2020 report: Shen Yun is based at Falun Gong’s headquarters, the 427-acre (1.73 km2) Dragon Springs compound in Deerpark, New York, which has large rehearsal spaces. Dragon Springs is a religious property registered as Dragon Springs Buddhist Church. The specific financial and structural links between Falun Gong, Shen Yun, and The Epoch Times are unknown. NBC News reported:
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Shen Yun Content
Shen Yun’s productions revolve around large-scale group dance. Each touring company consists of approximately 40 male and female dancers who primarily perform classical Chinese dances while incorporating various acrobatic and tumbling techniques, forms, and postures. Shen Yun’s repertoire includes tales from Chinese history and legends such as Mulan’s Legend, Journey to the West, and Outlaws of the Marsh.
It also depicts “the current story of Falun Gong.” At least two of the 16 scenes in the 2010 production represented the “persecution and murder of Falun Gong practitioners” in contemporary China, including the death of a young mother and the imprisonment of a Falun Gong protester.
A full Western orchestra leads the melodies. There are solo performances with Chinese instruments, such as the erhu, between dances. Besides the erhu performances, operatic singers perform songs that sometimes invoke spiritual or religious themes, including references to the Falun Gong faith, interspersed between dance sequences.