KITCHENER-WATERLOO, Canada—The bright colours and intricate costumes of Shen Yun Performing Arts left one costume designer and another costume maker deeply impressed.
Brenda Solanki, founder of Sewfitting Designs and former head costume designer for Kitchener Waterloo Musical Theatre company, was educated at Académie De Coupe Et De Couture and knows a thing or two about costumes, having made hundreds herself.
After seeing Shen Yun, she wanted to know how the company’s designers had done what they had done.
“These costumes are so amazing, I would love to get my hands on them is all I can say. Just to feel them and to see how they are structured. That’s what I would love to see.”
“They are stunning. I really liked the way they flow.”
She said she especially appreciated the costumes in Phoenix Fairies, where the shimmering skirts of phoenix maidens echo the depths of the star-speckled sky.
Ms. Solanki also enjoyed Shen Yun’s digitally projected backdrop where vividly animated scenes open the stage to realms both earthly and divine. The scenes also interact with the dancers on the stage, a dynamic Ms. Solanki enjoyed.
“I liked the interplay of the technology with the dance medium. I thought that was really brilliant.”
“I liked the music, it wasn’t quite what I expected and I really enjoyed it,” she said, especially praising the first soprano of the night Huang Pi-ju who sang Do Not Lose Your Way.
“I loved that. I don’t know how to describe it. When I find a piece of music I really like, it transports me. I close my eyes and I just go with the music and that’s the piece that did it for me. That was a beautiful piece.”
She also appreciated Shen Yun’s mission to revive China’s 5,000 year traditional culture.
“They are doing a good job. It’s a worthwhile endeavour, we should never forget the past. If you forget the past you’re doomed to make all the same mistakes again.”
Ms. Solanki wasn’t the only costume maker at Shen Yun that night. Pamela Hutton, who made costumes at the Stratford Festival and now works with Inspiration Dance Wear, was also in the audience.
“The costumes were amazing, so pretty. And I love all the different colours they put together. Interesting colour combinations that I wouldn’t have thought. It looked so beautiful.”
She said she kept seeing the dresses on the stage and thinking she wished she had one for herself.
“And the long sleeves, they were beautiful, very pretty. We were sitting in the mezzanine, so you could get such a nice view of everything. Loved it, exciting.”
“I love the colours, the way they put the colours together, and the flow of everything. It was beautiful.”
She also enjoyed the water sleeves on some of the costumes, long-flowing ribbons of material that provide a visual echo of the dancers’ movements.
“They were amazing. I wanted to make those for myself,” she said.
Ms. Hutton came with her friend Caroline Culshaw, a patron of Shen Yun who comes to see the show every year.
“I love it,” said Ms. Culshaw.
She said Shen Yun’s dancers were phenomenal.
“Absolutely wonderful. So professional, the choreography is incredible, I just loved it.”
Ms. Culshaw also felt Shen Yun’s orchestra was beautiful.
“I loved how they incorporated traditional Chinese instruments,” she said.
Ms. Hutton agreed.
“It was beautiful, breathtaking really. I think at the end of the whole show, we came away feeling really speechless and impressed. Just lovely.”
Reporting by Lisa Ou and Matthew Little.
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 two shows in Kitchener-Waterloo on Jan. 10-11 before going on to Hamilton and Toronto in its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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