Monday, January 04, 2010

The (Falun) Gong Show

The annual Falun Gong show has installed itself this week at the San Francisco Opera House before wandering on to stints in San Jose and Sacramento. It used to be called "The Chinese New Year's Spectacular" but has been rebranded as "Shen Yun," with an "all-new show."

Sarah Crompton in the London Telegraph
reviewed it in February 2008 with a few choice words:
But what I really object to is that such a politically motivated performance is being smuggled on to stages around Europe in the name of family entertainment. And at the group's first performance in Britain on Friday at the Festival Hall, I was not alone. While many of the audience - the majority of Chinese origin - applauded, others were appalled. In such a context, any judgment of the piece's artistic merit seems beside the point, but it is a horribly Disneyfied version of the traditional Chinese culture it seeks to celebrate.

Introduced by two constantly smiling bilingual presenters, the singers wear a strange mixture of old-fashioned Western garb (purple crinoline, white evening suits) and the dancers appear dressed as Tibetan monks, ancient warriors, flowers and the like in brilliantly coloured silks. They perform against bright slides, across which flying Buddhas or spirits occasionally zoom into view, to unintentionally comic effect...The result is one of the weirdest and most unsettling evenings I have ever spent in the theatre.

To get a full dose of the strange cultiness of the group, click here to go to the source, the Shen Yun blog detailing the awesome triumphs its three different companies are having in every one of its touring cities. For the best description of the show, Sid Chen's account from January 2007 with photos by yours truly is still the best.

You're not going to be reading any of this in your local newspapers, by the way, because the show has done some serious saturation advertising in the print media this year, including the full front inner page of the Sunday Chronicle Datebook, a four-page color insert in the San Francisco Examiner, not to mention big buys in the "alt" media. Buyer beware.


Matty Boy said...

The title of this piece is in serious contention for the Best Title of 2010, even if the year is only five days old. Great stuff.

Thanks also for the link to the previous review and the amazing comments section. I'm just an ignorant American who reads the newspaper, but the more you talk about Falun Gong, the more the whole thing smells like Scientology or the Unification Church.

libhom said...

The Falun Gong are the only people I've ever seen who look depressed and miserable while they are meditating.

whabbear said...

I agree with Matty! ROFLMAO@ "The (Falun) Gong Show!

AlbGlinka said...

That troupe was camped out in the ghost-town still known as Metreon downtown trying to sell tickets for the past three months or so. Creepy.

AphotoAday said...

Love that first shot -- splendidly done...
But Jeeezzz, you really know how to torture yourself, don't you, Mike? I think I'm going to hop over to YouTube and see what I can find on the REAL gong Show -- the one Chuck Barris produced...

bobby fletcher said...

Does thie poster say anything about their affiliation with Falun Gong? The local Seattle commercial seems to hide this fact.

Not suprised, this ain't the first time. said...

How Falun is the Gong Show? Only from the beginning to the end, with exceptions of... Tchaikovsky! (not hitherto known as a Falun Gong sympathizer).

Weird, bad show... an opinion based on first-hand experience from its predecessor:

Excerpt: "Rather puzzling is how numerous scenes unrelated to China got on the program. They range from Pepper the mime, to excerpts from the Minkus-Petipa “Paquita” — danced by Russian soloists and the Washington School of Ballet — and the Adam-Petipa “Le Corsaire,” plus an orchestral performance of the “Waltz of the Flowers” from, yes, Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” which is not exactly in short supply in December.

NTDTV is a Taiwanese-overseas Chinese company, so don’t expect any mainland Chinese propaganda; quite to the contrary, “Myths and Legends” features several Falun Gong numbers, in support of the religious group persecuted by Beijing. Oh, and there is an evil red dragon, too."

The upcoming (Feb. '10) SFS Chinese New Year Show in Davies will have Tchaikovsky also - the Chinese connection also reflected in the Yellow River Piano Concerto and the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. Why? Search me.