"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." - Beatrice Hull, The Friends of Voltaire, 1906
This holds true for my stance on the spiritual group, Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa). I have read Zhuan Falun by the group's founder, Li Hongzhi, and have spoken with and befriended a few practitioners. I am not a practitioner nor will I ever be, but their continued brutal persecution by the Chinese Communist Party is a deep concern of mine.
I apologise to readers who don't want to read about politics, and I apologise to any readers from mainland China who, by virtue of my opening paragraph, will probably soon be blocked from viewing this blog. For those of you who have never heard of Falun Gong, research it, please. Read Falun Gong publications, but please also read statements about the group from the Chinese government. Falun Gong is a spiritual group that is based on three vital principles: truth, compassion and forbearance. Practitioners manifest these values in their everyday lives and also through a series of set physical exercises that empower body and mind, not unlike yoga. Most of the poses in these exercise sets have spiritual meaning.
I could write a separate essay on my views about Falun Gong and why it is such a target of hatred by the Chinese government. Suffice it to say that the group has been banned in China; practitioners are constantly imprisoned, tortured, put into labour camps, or killed. Remember truth, one of the founding principles of Falun Gong? Members adhere strictly to the virtue of truth. So when they are told in prison that the torture will stop when they denounce Falun Gong, they don't lie; they endure further abuse instead. The group is super peaceful, and my friends who are practitioners are some of the kindest, purest, hardest working and most compassionate people I know. Falun Gong benefits them on a daily basis and they love the values that they live by. Whether you agree with specific practices and beliefs or not, you should be aware of the human rights abuses against the group if you care about freedom of opinion.
Anyway, this post is related to dance, I promise!! I recently met an unbelievably amazing girl who I go to school with. She takes half of every year off to go on tour with the Shen Yun Performing Arts company- she is a Chinese classical dancer. Shen Yun has been performing all over the world at its most prestigious theatres. The troupe was created by Falun Gong practitioners who wanted to celebrate China's 5,000 year history of elaborate music and dance. Not only is their spirituality outlawed in their home country, China's ancient artistic traditions have also been suppressed since Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.
They have three different touring groups who tour the world every winter, so if you have the chance, attend a performance! I have never seen Chinese classical dance before, but apparently it is very similar to ballet in that it is an extremely demanding and precise, yet beautiful and expressive art form. I plan to attend my very first Shen Yun show in early 2011 and I can't wait (though I'm admittedly still more excited for the Mariinsky!).