TORONTO—Shen Yun Performing Arts concluded a series of classical Chinese dance performances at the Sony Centre on Sunday afternoon. Maya Basserman, the founder of a music school, said this was the show she had been waiting for.
“I really loved it. … This is the kind of show I’ve wanted to see for years,” she said. Ms. Basserman owns Maestro Music, a music school where the teachers drive to the students’ houses to give private and semi-private lessons. She plays piano herself.
“The music was amazing. Very Chinese, very authentic,” Ms. Basserman said.
Each of Shen Yun’s dances are accompanied by a live orchestra—one that is comprised of both Eastern and Western instruments.
The Shen Yun Orchestra maintains the grandeur of a symphonic orchestra with its classical western instruments, while its Chinese instruments infuse the soul of Chinese ethnic music.
As the brass and woodwinds set a regal tone, Chinese instruments such as the pipa play the melody to bring out a distinct ethnic flavor.
The pipa, played by musicians for thousands of years, is known as the “king” of Chinese folk instruments. The instrument is plucked while held upright on the knee, and it has four strings—each representing a season.
The instruments construction is closely tied to ancient Chinese beliefs. The pipa is three feet five inches—which represents the three powers of heaven, earth, and man. Its width signifies the Chinese theory of five elements—metal, wood, water, fire, and earth.
It is considered one of the most expressive of Chinese instruments. Besides plucking, the musician can also tap on the pipa’s body to simultaneously create its own rhythmic accompaniment.
Ms. Basserman said she was particularly enthralled by advanced digital backdrop that set the scene for each performance and how it worked together with the live dancers on the stage.
“I love the combination … it was really interesting,” she said.
Using state-of-the-art graphics, Shen Yun’s backdrops swept the audience through Chinese history—from sites such as the Tang Dynasty’s sacred golden temples to the vast plains of Mongolian grasslands.
Ms. Basserman said she was also captivated by Shen Yun’s opera singers, vocal soloists who use the bel canto technique while singing Chinese lyrics.
“Beautiful voices,” she said.
Shen Yun’s lyrics reflect traditional Chinese philosophies on the meaning of human life, connecting the to a deeper meaning to music that reaches beyond race and culture.
Unfortunately, the much of the Chinese heritage was destroyed during the cultural revolution from 1966-1976. Many Chinese cultural performances today still include elements added by the Chinese government. Therefore, Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by a group of overseas artists who wanted to revive the truly authentic Chinese culture.
Ms. Basserman’s daughter Anita said that she really liked the dance An Early Spring.
“It was very pretty,” she said.
Dancers swirl handkerchiefs to evoke the change of seasons in the lively and surprising piece.
Reporting by Madalina Hubert and Amelia Pang.
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 finished its run of five shows in Toronto with sold-out shows Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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