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Regina Weinreich

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Beauty and the Beast: Shen Yun at Lincoln Center

Posted: 06/24/11 06:47 PM ET

Spirits soar over snow capped mountains, a sword-wielding hero, Wu Song, slays a man-eating tiger, a dance corps in Barbie pink clusters like plum blossoms, another twirls handkerchiefs, nymphs frolic in the waves. Heaven opens its gates. In spectacular color and gorgeous costumes, Shen Yun, a New York-based arts group, enacts the rich cultural heritage of China at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center.

As in Grimm's fairy tales, dreams prevail over nightmares. A grim history underlies the beauty in the case of Shen Yun's political agenda. Early on a tenor sings the praises of the Falun sacrificing their lives. "This is our story." Michelle Ren and Yungchia Chen choreograph a dance based upon a true account of a beloved teacher who is dragged off by thuggish police for writing "truth," "compassion," and "tolerance" on the blackboard.

At a reception celebrating Shen Yun, dancers, musicians, and other Chinese artists were presented to diners. This reporter wanted to know why the Chinese government does not allow this performance in China: was it the direct accusation of oppression in many of the elaborate production numbers, or was it the enactment of classical Chinese traditions? "Both," replied Chelsea Cai, a principal dancer. The Communist regime tries to erase the cultural history.

Salman Rushdie was among those in attendance. Longtime president of PEN, himself in hiding for many years under a fatwa for characters in his fiction, for Rushdie an irony was not missed. China is watched for imprisoning writers and suppressing creativity. Just this week, the artist Ai Weiwei was released from detention in Beijing. Outspoken about the abuses of Chinese censorship, he was "held in secret detention without charge or trial," according to a June 22 press release.

The elegant, cultural evening, hosted by Donna Karan, marked a triumph for The Peggy Siegal Company, also responsible for the premiere of the wildly hilarious film Horrible Bosses, a comedy directed by Seth Gordon and starring Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, and Kevin Spacey downtown at a club called Vault. Looking curvaceous but a shadow of her former self, Kirstie Alley claims to have lost 90 pounds preparing for her turn on Dancing With the Stars.

This post also appears on Gossip Central.