VANCOUVER, Canada—As a seasoned actor and former dancer, Alex Campbell found a lot to appreciate in Shen Yun Performing Arts on Sunday, when he attended the Jan. 13 matinee performance at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
“Having danced myself I have to say that the [Shen Yun dancers] are amazing,” he said after the show. “They’re so strong and graceful as well—I’m very impressed overall, it’s just nice to see some traditional dance as well.”
Classical Chinese dance, which is at the core of Shen Yun’s performances, has history of thousands of years, according to the Shen Yun website.
“Soaking up profound wisdom from every era and dynasty, it has become a complete system of dance embodying traditional aesthetic principles with its unique dance movements, rhythms, and inner meaning,” says the website.
Mr. Campbell was touched by the beauty of Shen Yun’s handmade costumes as well, saying the combination of costuming and the graceful dance movements had the appearance of a stunning painting.
“I enjoyed the girls who had the flowing sleeves, the first time we saw that. It was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!” he said, referring to one of the performances that the female dancers’ costumes featured flowing sleeves.
“They’re just like an oil painting. If you just close your eyes a little bit and it’s slightly blurry and you just see the shapes—it’s like a dream.”
Mr. Campbell graduated from the Bird College of Dance, Music & Theatre Performance in southeast London, England and performed as a stage actor in productions around the world.
He later shifted his focus to film and TV, most notably The Killing Zone and Dead Room. He moved to Canada in 2005 and has appeared in episodes of Against All Odds and Cold Blood. His most recent film credits include: Det. Edmond in the movie 2:22 starring Gabriel Byrne & Val Kilmer, and the Canadian Film Centre’s Pudge both of which were film festival entries that subsequently won awards.
Some of the most memorable effects in Shen Yun came from the digitally animated backdrops, Mr. Campbell said. Acting as an extension of the stage, the backdrops interact with the dancers, and at times appear as if performers can jump in and out of the screen.
He said. “It’s such a clever effect, its brilliant, absolutely brilliant.”
According to the Shen Yun website, the digital backdrops reflect China’s multifaceted geography, society, regions and dynasties and are inspired by the country’s 5,000-year history.
New York-based Shen Yun is a classical Chinese dance and music company, formed in 2006 with a mission to revive five millennia of traditional Chinese culture.
Mr. Campbell was delighted with the many characters featured in Shen Yun’s collection of story-based dances—whether it was the brave Shaolin monks, vicious river monster, or scroll-seeking sage. The stories draw upon legends that span China’s history and aim to express the very essence of traditional Chinese culture.
“Whether set in the past or in contemporary China, every dance embodies traditional Chinese values. Ideals of loyalty, filial piety, and veneration for the divine are cherished and celebrated. Heroes are extolled for their compassion and tolerance as much as their courage or determination when facing adversity,” says the Shen Yun website.
Reporting by May Liu and Justina Wheale.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. The New York Company will complete its tour of eastern Canada with five shows in Toronto Jan. 17–20. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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