Shen Yun & Bill Nye, The Science Guy

January 26th, 2015

        Spent the weekend visiting my sister in Pasadena. On Saturday we saw the Shen Yun Performing Arts dance group and on Sunday attended a Bill Nye-The Science Guy lecture at Cal Tech.

        The Shen Yun Performing Arts group is appearing in five Southern California venues during January and February. They extensively publicize their engagements which draw large crowds to their performances. The publicity always includes a photo of an individual who appears to be flying and that image led me to assume a Shen Yun program qualified as a spectacular event. I didn’t learn of my mistaken assumption until we were seated in the theater. The performance we saw occurred in Hollywood’s Dolby Theater. It’s probably better known by its former name, Kodak Theater when it was then the site of the annual Academy Awards. ceremonies. The Dolby Theater is quite nice and our Orchestra seats afforded us excellent views of the stage.

        Shen Yun Performing Arts is a New York City nonprofit organization dedicated to reviving authentic Chinese culture through presentation of ancient traditions on stage. The performances consist of dances and music from 5,000 years of past history and are reportedly part of the culture suppressed by today’s China’s communist government. All dialog, including vocals, was in Chinese though each act is preceded by a spoken introduction that’s presented in both English and Chinese. The troupe includes an Orchestra comprised of both Chinese and Western instruments. The music consists of all-original compositions. Though described in the program as “Classical Chinese dance”, my untrained eye left me concluding one description of the performance could be that it is a form of Chinese Ballet.

        The performance’s patrons included many who appeared to be of Chinese ancestry and I suspect the event was quite meaningful for them. As for me, my disappointment at learning I was attending a Classic Chinese Dance program, instead of performance geared towards something spectacular, was difficult to overcome. I did find the program interesting and different from other events I’ve attended. Shen Yun reportedly creates new programs each year, but it’s not something I’d be interested in seeing again.

Shen Yun

        On Sunday we attended the Skeptics Society presentation of “Bill Nye, The Science Guy In Conversation with Michael Shermer”. The event was in Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium and it was completely sold out with a large crowd outside of those who arrived after all tickets had been sold. I’ve seen Bill Nye on television including, of course, last year’s “Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham”, also known as the “Creationism Vs. Evolution Debate”.

        Nye’s resume includes an unusual variety of experiences. His Wikipedia entry says he is an “American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, writer, scientist, and former mechanical engineer, best known as the host of the Disney/PBS children’s science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–98) and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator.” The Caltech appearance was a great opportunity to see the guy close up and  in a rather informal setting. The conversation lasted a couple of hours and was an event I’d readily repeat.



Bond Shands
January 26, 2015
The Notebook at

Postscript note: The following comment was posted by a viewer to my Facebook version of this report.

Michael Strickland The Shen Yun show is part of the Falun Gong religious cult, which the Chinese authorities do torture and suppress. The group doesn’t advertise the show that way, but you were basically seeing a religious propaganda show, and it has NOTHING to do with “Classical Chinese” anything. Surprised you didn’t realize that. Here’s a link to a friend’s writeup 7 years ago:


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