TORONTO—Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world-renowned classical Chinese dance and music company, started its five-show run at the Sony Centre on Thursday night. The night was cold but the audience’s hearts were warm as they enjoyed colourful and uplifting performances on a journey across 5,000 years of Chinese history.
In the audience was a group of 10 colleagues from an animation company whose boss bought them tickets to see Shen Yun.
“It was great,” said young animator Shawn Martins. “I didn’t really know what to expect going in and then I came out just blown away. They did a good job.”
For his colleague Kevin Zimny, also an animator, it was the second time seeing the show.
“10 out of 10. Perfect,” he said. “Lots of fun to watch.”
He particularly enjoyed the humour found in Shen Yun’s story-based dances, inspired from Chinese literary myths and legends as well as contemporary tales of courage.
“It was really funny, there’s lots of funny parts,” he said.
Established in 2006, New York-based Shen Yun has set out to revive 5,000 of divinely inspired Chinese culture that is largely lost in today’s communist China.
Shen Yun features classical Chinese dance, one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world, as well as folk and ethnic dance, which represents a large variety of traditional dance styles from across the Middle Kingdom.
Mr. Zimny’s favourite dance was the Mongolian Bowl Dance, in which a group of ladies balance bowls on their heads in a dance of welcome. According to the program book, their “movements are relaxed but filled with an inner strength, and evoke images of geese in flight.”
Both colleagues were also impressed by Shen Yun’s animated backdrops that extend the stage to transport the audience to other worlds, from beautiful landscapes and dusty battlegrounds, to imperial palaces and heavenly realms.
“I really liked the screen,” said Mr. Zimny. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” he said.
Mr. Martins was particularly impressed by the manner in which the dancers jumped into and out of the screen in several of the dances—a wonder created by Shen Yun’s state-of-the-art animation.
In addition to the backdrop, he found many references to animation in the whole show. “They told us animation is sort of like a dance,” he said.
“It’s neat to watch because you notice things when you’re watching it that you could put into an animation. Or you could learn about animation from watching these dancers and how they are so graceful.
“They go hand in hand really—animation and dance,” Mr. Martins said.
“I think it’s inspiring because they use a lot of great poses and animation has a lot to do with poses and movement,” he added.
Mr. Martins also felt inspired by the story of the persecution that practitioners of the meditation practice Falun Dafa face in China. Rooted in traditional Chinese beliefs, the practice is being targeted by the atheistic communist regime, which has systematically tried to eradicate traditional Chinese culture and its spirituality throughout its decades of rule.
“It was enlightening,” Mr. Martins said.
Reporting by Becky Zhou and Madalina Hubert
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 will play five shows in Toronto Jan. 17-20, completing its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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