TORONTO—Alexander Gorelick found creative inspiration for his next animation projects on Saturday while taking in Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Sony Centre.
Mr. Gorelick attended the acclaimed classical Chinese dance company’s Jan.19 evening show with his wife, Masha Ghorbankarimi.
Praising the soulful movement in classical Chinese dance, he said it inspired new ideas for his stop motion animation work, a technique for making an object appear to move on its own by moving it, like a puppet, in small increments between individually photographed frames.
“The show was quite fantastic,” he said.
“The movement was beautiful. It’s actually one of the things we focus on in stop motion animation—is in understanding of movement.
“Seeing the martial art and dance put together so incredibly on stage actually inspired me a little bit more towards doing really, really well in stop motion animation,” Mr. Gorelick added, speaking to the close relationship between martial arts and classical Chinese dance.
Their techniques may look similar on the surface but are in fact different in their purpose and execution, according to the Shen Yun website.
The website explains that Chinese martial arts and classical Chinese dance use seemingly identical techniques to fulfill different purposes, one to serve the practical aim of fighting and defending in the most efficient manner, while the other is used for entertainment as a performing art and seeks to enhance each movement’s aesthetic qualities.
Choreographers and Animators as Storytellers
Mr. Gorelick has been in the animation industry for nearly 14 years. He is Series Director, Supervising Technical Director, and Animation Director at award-winning animation firm Cuppa Coffee Studios, and works on a variety of creative projects with his own company, Alexander Films Inc.
He is also a partner at Smooth Corner Technology Inc., a company dedicated toward designing clean-energy technology.
Mr. Gorelick said that the classical Chinese dance presented by Shen Yun was delightfully expressive because the dancers were “telling their story through their movement.”
That’s actually a testament to the strength of the direction for this particular show, because when you combine colour, movement, costume, and lighting with the narrative that is on stage, that’s when you get a good show.
—Animation Director Alexander Gorelick
“Sometimes the movements were sharp, sometimes they were soft, sometimes they were subtle, other times they were aggressive,” he said.
“This all comes from a choreographer’s understanding or purpose and meaning. … There’s a very, very strong similarity between how a choreographer motivates their dancers to move and to tell a story on stage, and how an animator or director of animation would motivate their own puppets or characters inside of a film to tell a story.”
New York-based Shen Yun is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. The performance features a collection of mini dance dramas that captures the essence of 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture.
According to the Shen Yun website, classical Chinese dance is inspired by China’s bygone eras and dynasties, and is one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world.
“It has become a complete system of dance embodying traditional aesthetic principles with its unique dance movements, rhythms, and inner meaning,” the website states.
Inner Spirit, Traditional Principles
Mr. Gorelick said the inner spirit and traditional principles the dancers expressed could be felt by the audience, and all of the show’s production elements combined beautifully.
“There’s a beauty to subtle movement, especially as seen with the costumes on stage today,” he said.
“That is rarely seen by other performers and that’s actually a testament to the strength of the direction for this particular show, because when you combine colour, movement, costume, and lighting with the narrative that is on stage, that’s when you get a good show.”
He was surprised by how versatile the dancers were—changing characters, costumes, and dance styles constantly throughout the show.
“It seemed that all of the dancers were extremely well-trained,” he said.
“At times … they had to play a kind of relaxed, comedic role, which showed an understanding from the performers of something more than just movement. They were actual actors.
“But then suddenly they moved into an aggressive fight scene, so it showed a very, very strong knowledge of movement, performance, art, dance, etc. on stage. … It was an excellent display.”
He added that the performance was flawless and described it as “wonderful, clean, and extraordinary.”
“There were no errors. There didn’t seem to be any flaws on stage made by the performers,” he said.
“It all seemed rhythmic and natural and very, very well-prepared.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Justina Wheale
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Following 21 successful shows Dec. 20-Jan. 13 in Mississauga, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Hamilton, Shen Yun’s New York Company finishes its run of five shows in Toronto on Sunday. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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