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Alberta ousts Shen Yun Performing Arts from two provincially owned venues

A performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts.

After going public with allegations of improper treatment at Calgary's Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Shen Yun Performing Arts has been told by the province to find another venue for its shows, which had been planned for the provincially owned Jubilee auditoria in Calgary and Edmonton next year.

The group says it received a letter from the Minister of Culture Heather Klimchuk late last week, notifying them of the cancellation.

"We are very shocked and disappointed. This is a public venue," said Jenny Yang, with the Falun Dafa Association of Calgary, which presents Shen Yun's Calgary performances. Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a religious sect that is banned in China.

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"It to us seems like it's kind of a punitive act. Edmonton has nothing to do with this. [Shen Yun] performed two sold-out shows in Edmonton and there's no complaint against the Northern [Alberta] Jubilee Auditorium. So we don't understand why she cancelled the show in Edmonton as well."

The ministry said the cancellation was not a punitive action.

"We just think that it's probably best that we end our business relationship," said Marie Iwanow, communications director for Alberta's Culture Ministry.

"They've had concerns [and] we don't know if those will be addressed in the future if they come back."

The company's concerns date back to the installation of a safety net over the Southern Jubilee's orchestra pit in 2010. But the most recent allegations are related to performances April 8 and 9 during the New York-based company's annual Canadian tour. Shen Yun was upset about a technical error, which its company manager, in an earlier interview, told The Globe and Mail "ruined the whole show."

More upsetting was a second "humiliating" incident in which a male crew member accidentally opened a door to a temporary change room area, exposing female dancers who were removing their costumes.

Shen Yun and the local Falun Dafa association felt these concerns were not treated seriously or respectfully, and in April took their allegations to the media, threatening to cancel future performances of the popular show if it did not receive a written apology and invitation to return from Jubilee management.

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Instead, they received a letter informing them that future performances at the Jubilee Auditoria have been cancelled, and the dates released.

"Regretfully, it appears to me that the relationship has deteriorated to the point that I do not believe it can be resolved," read the minister's letter, released by the local Falun Dafa Association.

A request to speak with Ms. Klimchuk was declined, and when asked why the dates had been cancelled, Ms. Iwanow was reluctant to provide specifics.

"We do consider this a private matter with a client," Ms. Iwanow told The Globe. "So it's unfortunate maybe that they chose to express their concerns through the news media, but we just have been dealing with them directly."

Shen Yun had been planning to perform three shows in Calgary and three shows in Edmonton in April, 2013. Ms. Yang says the Jubilee auditoria were the only venues large enough and technically equipped for the show, and they will not be seeking a replacement.

Shen Yun was established in 2006 by expatriate Chinese artists. Its mandate is to "restore and revive Chinese traditional culture" which it says has been suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party. There are three touring companies, which travel internationally.

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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