During last Chinese New Year, Shen Yun made headlines when people walked out of its Radio City Music Hall performance. The objection? Woven into the opulent display of classical Chinese choreography, graceful martial arts, ethnic folk dance, and acrobatics were scenes depicting the religious persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. Derided as an evil cult by the Chinese government, Falun Gong is loosely based on qigong, Buddhist, and Taoist concepts with some madcap tidbits thrown in, such as the belief that space aliens corrupted humanity with science. While not explicitly affiliated, the New Yorkbased Shen Yun has never kept its empathies secret. Its primary impetus, to celebrate and elaborate the art forms of pre-Communist China, is done with unparalleled skill: Every show is a spectacle of lavish Imperial processions, gentle wushu displays, and evocative erhu solos, set against IMAX-worthy digital backdrops of celestial palaces, Mongolian grasslands, and drifting flower petals. A 40-piece orchestra accompanies the age-old folk dances of Tibet, Mongolia, and Korea, and performers drum on their bodies with fistfuls of chopsticks and twirl with teacups atop their heads. But, despite the grandeur, Shen Yun does not shy away from the historical movements and spiritual underpinnings that inform its art. If that means portraying human rights violations in Tibet or Tianjin, so be it.
Jan. 2-3, 2 & 7 p.m.; Jan. 5-7, 7:30 p.m., 2010