Shen Yun brings music and dance to Arizona — but does it also bring a political agenda?
The Shen Yun dance and orchestra company is in Arizona this month. It performed last week in Tucson, has three more shows in Mesa and then a handful in Phoenix over the weekend and next week.
This year’s program is titled “China Before Communism.” The troupe was developed in 2006, and today its eight touring companies play to audiences around the world. The shows are billed as traditional Chinese performances, drawing on five-thousand years of tradition.
And their arrival in a community is typically marked by an extensive advertising campaign.
Shen Yun was founded by the Falun Gong — a spiritual organization that grew out of an exercise routine practiced in China during the 1990s.
The organization found itself at odds with the Chinese government and moved to the United States to set up headquarters a couple hours outside of New York City.
In addition to Shen Yun, Falun Gong owns the Epoch Times — a national right-wing newspaper and a broadcast group called New Tang Dynasty Television.
David Bachman, a professor of Chinese policy with the University of Washington, joined The Show to explain the people behind Shen Yun.
Music and dance are at the heart of the Shen Yun performances. But, one former participant says her experience was unusual. Performing with Shen Yun wasn’t like playing for the local symphony.
Violinist Maria Raczka was hired to perform with Shen Yun — but it took her just a few weeks to figure out it wasn’t for her. She shared her story with The Show, beginning with her audition.
The Show reached out to Shen Yun and the Falun Gong organization. Falun Gong member Levi Browde said the Shen Yun’s head office did not want to comment for this story.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to an editing error, this story has been modified to correct Levi Browde's position with the Falun Gong organization.