My Encounter with

Peter and I spoke to a reporter from after the Shen Yun show yesterday.

I said I was interested to hear the group’s message in favor of religious freedom, and was surprised to encounter the anti-Communist stance.

After I found this picture on the website, I scanned through its news feed and noted its headlines looked somewhat favorable to Donald Trump, noting his participation in this weekend’s March for Life and his anti-Communist stance.

Turns out the Epoch Times is closely related to the Folan Gong faith, and is part of a network that has promoted the Spygate and QAnon conspiracy theories.

In February, I called up Emily Wilcox, a professor of Chinese studies at the University of Michigan and the author of the book “Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy.” “I studied Chinese classical dance at the Beijing Dance Academy for a year and a half,” she said, “and, a few weeks after I came back to Michigan, a group promoting Shen Yun came up to me at the mall, handed me a flyer, and gave me the whole spiel about how Chinese dance is banned in China. It was hilarious to me, and so ridiculous, and, in a way, it inspired me to write this history in my book.”

Wilcox told me that Chinese classical dance is one of the predominant forms of dance in the contemporary Chinese art world. “It’s the form that professional dancers pay most attention to,” she said. “And, crucially, it’s actually a very new art form.” In the early nineteen-fifties, Wilcox explained, Chinese dancers, driven by a nationalistic impulse to create a form that could truly represent China, and drawing inspiration from historic art objects, nineteen-twenties Chinese opera, and various types of folk performance, began to shape a new tradition. “Dancers in China emphasize the fact that Chinese dance is an artistic innovation,” Wilcox said. “They’re interested in the possibility of newness, diversity, finding something new in Chinese history rather than re-creating the same thing.”

“Have you ever heard anyone say that ballet or gymnastics came out of Chinese dance?” I asked.

“I have never heard that before, no,” Wilcox said. She then pointed me to several Chinese-classical-dance performances on YouTube, all of which were markedly more expressive and nuanced than what I saw at Shen Yun. —Jia Tolention, The New Yorker

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