HAMILTON, Canada—Valerie Lemberg has seen China, thoroughly, but found the best representation of traditional Chinese culture she had seen back home in Ontario, at the sold-out show put on by Shen Yun Performing Arts Friday night.
“I have never seen a show like this before but I have travelled through China extensively,” she said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a show like this and I love it. I think it’s beautiful, creative.”
Mrs. Lemberg, now retired, and her husband built Polymark Manufacturing from the ground up, manufacturing custom-moulded polyurethane parts for things like airplanes and cars. The couple then sold it in 2002 and watched it continue to grow under the new owners.
One element of the performance she said she particularly enjoyed was the Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra.
“The orchestra is outstanding,” she said.
The orchestra is unique for including traditional Chinese instruments leading the melodies while a classical Western philharmonic orchestra plays the foundation.
“The orchestra is one of the finest I’ve ever heard, I really mean that. We have season’s tickets to the opera,” said Ms. Lemberg.
“I kept saying that to my husband all night: ‘I love the orchestra.’”
She said she also enjoyed Shen Yun’s story-based dances. These mini-dramas recount ancient myths and historical legends, drawing on China’s 5,000-years of history, which has been documented in vivid detail.
“I think the stories are beautiful and it’s interpreted well in the dance and the [digital backdrops] are outstanding, I really like that,” she said.
“I don’t know how they do that, they make the sounds and things are coming in and out of the water, it’s very good.”
The scene she describes was from the dance Sand Monk is Blessed, a tale from the beloved Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. The story tells of pilgrims on a journey to obtain Buddhist scriptures, who encounter a shape-shifting river ogre.
Shen Yun was founded on a mission to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired culture, a culture nearly destroyed after 60 years of communist rule in China.
Shen Yun’s website explains how traditional culture was destroyed and supplanted with the culture of the Chinese Communist Party.
“For thousands of years, traditional art forms such as music and dance have been integrated into Chinese life, expressing benevolence, beauty, and many other virtues. But today’s arts emerging from China are infused with Party Culture, and it is evident both overtly and covertly.
“The Party discovered that traditional themes can be replaced with its own violent ideology to turn the arts into a strong propaganda tool. The ultimate goal is to substitute remnants of traditional Chinese culture in people’s minds with Party Culture, thereby safeguarding the regime’s power.
“Shen Yun’s goal is to revive the authentic and original manifestation of traditional Chinese culture and art.”
Mrs. Lemberg said during her travels to China she observed the oppressive nature of the Chinese regime, but sees a creative spirit in traditional Chinese culture and people that cannot be extinguished.
“When you travel in China when you are on a tour, the eyes are on you at all times. I remember going up to soldiers asking if I can take pictures and they declined. They pass out Mao, big thick red Mao philosophy books, they try to sell you $5 Seiko watches, it’s unbelievable,” she said.
“But when you walk the streets the art and the painting and the creativity, for something like $2 you can get a beautiful piece of artwork, jewellery boxes, I find them very very creative people and I’m seeing that in [Shen Yun], the interpretation, and the stories. I think it’s very accurate.”
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company will play three shows in Hamilton on Jan. 12-13 before going on to Toronto for five shows, completing its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 20 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.