I forget how civilized I am because I have been raising children for 18 years.
Last evening I broke my fast for the first time in about 4 years, put on the long black coat, expensive scarf and headed out with the Spousal Unit to reacquaint myself with the high arts. The last time, we went to see Dudamel's premier at the Disney. This time it was Shen Yun at the Segerstrom and the arts were not quite so sophisticated, but high nevertheless.
It was my first time to the South Coast art complex, home of the South Coast Rep and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra. The architecturals are most appropriately dramatic if not arrestingly splendid. As we had a quick drink and dash of excellent sushi at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge onsite. I just had to marvel at this little plop of class right in the middle of Corporateville California, headquarters of Taco Bell. It was quiet and plush and the people were well-appointed and polite - not meaning the staff who get paid to be so, but the patrons. Eegads Maggie!
Across the way at the Segerstrom it was more bustling with the sort of crowd one would expect to find at a high school graduation; the older two generations in moderate attire with the appropriate proportions suitable for an English & Chinese presentation. My Mandarin sucks these days, but I do pick up the occasional phrase and can tell a Northern accent from a Southern. We shuffled in with the pack and found our seats convient to both viewing and quick egress. And so it began.
Both the Unit and I were expecting something rather different than what we beheld. It was her idea to see dancing acrobats, but instead we saw acrobatic dancers that were only occasionally acrobatic. What was a complete surprise was the component of moral suggestion that was part and parcel of the program. You see, Shen Yun are cultural ambassadors for the Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong. If you've never heard of Falun Gong, what you basically need to know is that they are on the outs with the Chinese authorities and all of the backscatter you hear about 'the human rights record of China' can be quickly characterized as the news we get here in the States as the various brutalities heaped upon the Falun Gong.
I was certainly aware that the Falun Gong was in this sort of trouble, but hearing Shen Yun present itself as the oppressed Falun Dafa, I figured there was more than one Falun the Red Chinese have beef with. Not putting the two together could be attributed to the Lawrence Welkian presentation of the matter. You could easily mistake the whole affair for a Sunday Matinee for families. It aint Sarafina! So as I write this without knowing the body counts for the Falun Gong it is a bit difficult for me to determine how forced are the smiles on the performers. But that is as it should be because despite the three or four expressly political narrative dances, there was a lot of performance to take in.
Most of the pieces were, from an analytical point of view rather energetically staid as can be expected of classical Chinese that was certainly composed to entertain royalty. I could get that feeling watching the various dances that these were very much of the sort designed to make you think 'aah these are my handsomest people, and see how they all dance in unison for me'. You would notice that they all had at least sevens and eights in their groups of dances. A soloist would never command the stage for more than a few moments, and romantic duets were rare as well.
Nevertheless, the most memorable ensembles were those that set the modern students against the snaky agents who, covered in black, summoned themselves into wolfish crouching circles around brightly colored innocents. And so there it is as I left it without much more immediate curiosity about digesting Chinese history or current events. Instead I reflected on the oft repeated fact that Shen Yun is the largest troupe representing classic Chinese dance in the world. It illustrates the simple that the Chinese government is, in this regard, at war with itself. Nobody needs 500 years of recourse, much less 5000 given that actual progress does happen in 10 generations. There are limits to the logic of conservation. But still.