|Crouching dancer, hidden jargon|
At the food court in Vancouver's Sinclair Centre, a young well-dressed Asian woman was last week handing out glossy leaflets promoting something called the Divine Performing Arts, or DPA.
She spoke softly, explaining to those who took her yellow pamphlets that the show, which is slated to hit a Vancouver stage next month, is about China's culture and heritage.
The literature promoting the show is full of superlatives like gloriously colorful, exhilarating, elite, masterful choreography, gorgeously costumed, stunning and breathtaking.
But is this really a show about China's traditional arts?
Look beyond the pamphlets and the website of the Divine Performing Arts Company, and it is quite evident that this spectacle is nothing more than a vehicle to showcase the beliefs of the Falun Gong movement and denigrate the Beijing regime.
Truth be told, Divine Propaganda Arts would be a better moniker for the show that has been panned by some big name critics in New York and Toronto.
Toronto Star theatre critic Susan Walker described the show as "spectacularly tacky" and heavily laden with "Falun Gong messages as to negate any pleasure the dancing and singing might have afforded."
A scathing New York Times review said dozens of people walked out of the show because of the heavy Falun Gong propaganda underscoring the performances by the lackluster dancers, singers, drummers and flying angels.
To be fair, the show has also received its share of positive reviews as well – most of them collected by volunteers from audience members to divinely end up in The Epoch Times – a Falun Gong-friendly newspaper chain.
So what and who is the Divine Performing Arts?
For those answers one has to look at the Falun Gong movement, which portrays itself as non-hierarchical parallel units when facing problems and solidifies into a considerable structure when propagating the bizarre belief system that is focused on a mystery man called Li Hongzhi.
This self-styled prophet and possessor of unique supernormal abilities has claimed his teachings are at " . . . a higher level than those of Buddha and Christ . . . ."
Li claims to have been found at age 12 by a "Taoist immortal" who then led him up the mountains to train him in the art of telekinetically implanting the falun, or law wheel, into the abdomens of his followers, where it absorbs and releases power as it spins.
The man - who has been variously described as an anti-Chinese doomsday cult leader, head of a sinister organization and a spiritual master - apparently also can fly, believes that Africa has a two billion-year- old nuclear reactor, and that aliens who look human, but have "a nose made of bone," invaded Earth to introduce modern technology.
Chinese media have a different version of Li, portraying him as an unexceptional student with a flair for the trumpet who held jobs as a guesthouse attendant and a grain store clerk, who founded the Falun Gong movement before taking off to the United States, where he is reportedly somewhere in New York.
Take what you want from this man's teachings, which are enshrined in the Falun Gong bible called Zhuan Falun, but the international Falun Gong movement now claims 100 million followers worldwide after China outlawed the group and cracked down on its members.
Today, this army of adherents, which is mainly ethnically Chinese, is quick to criticize China for using "fronts" to discredit the Falun Gong movement, while the group itself uses the same two-faced technique.
In the Falun Gong diaspora, followers run printing presses, newspapers, websites, TV stations and stage productions to highlight communist China's alleged repression of their movement.
While maintaining a public distance, these businesses all acknowledge by word and deed a special relationship with the Falun Gong movement.
Readers of the Asian Pacific Post newspaper in Vancouver know this all too well. The award-winning paper was held hostage by Epoch Press, which is operated by Falun Gong followers, because the followers did not like the "balanced approach" to a story about the Divine Performing Arts show. (See 'Hypocrisy in slow motion' on www.asianpacificpost.com)
Maria Chang of the University of Nevada, who wrote a book about the Falun Gong, said the Falun Gong movement treats organizations it has created as front components to influence public opinion through propaganda campaigns.
Describing such strategies as counterproductive in democratic societies, Chang in a published interview said: "Being secretive and deceptive will just play into the image they're a kooky group with something to hide."
The Falun Gong movement also claims to be apolitical, which is as believable as having a spinning wheel in your tummy.
Much of their actions, from morbid street skits to silent demonstrations to noisy parades, are aimed at drawing attention to their plight and creating agitation against Beijing.
Similarly, the Divine Performing Arts show is nothing more than another theatre of the absurd in Falun Gong's on-going proxy war against China.
It's just crouching dancer, hidden jargon.
(South Asian Post, March 12, 2009)