MONTREAL—Olympic gold medallist Sylvie Fréchette attended the Shen Yun Performing Arts at Place des Arts with her family on Jan. 4, 2013, and said the show shone with hope and courage.
“There is hope, there is something very positive—the strength of everyone—I found this very touching,” she said in French after the show.
“The message of hope, the good—It was really beautiful.”
Ms. Fréchette, a retired Canadian synchronized swimmer, won a gold medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics and a silver in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
In 1999, she was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She has also contributed as a swimmer, designer, and coach to the synchronized-swimming portions of Cirque du Soleil’s water-themed stage production, O.
Ms. Fréchette was impressed by the synchronicity in Shen Yun’s large group dances, which can sometimes feature dozens of artists on stage at once.
“It really impressed me a lot how in a blink of an eye they change their patterns, they change formation, it is always very precise,” she said.
“This confirmed their accuracy—the number of artists who could be on stage—and it was still very clear and precise.”
It really impressed me a lot how in a blink of an eye they change their patterns, they change formation, it is always very precise.
—Sylvie Fréchette, Olympic gold medallist in synchronized swimming
New York-based Shen Yun is a world-renowned classical Chinese dance and music company formed in 2006 with a mission to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture.
According to the Shen Yun website, traditional Chinese culture and art forms were all but destroyed during decades of violent campaigns under the Chinese Communist Party.
“Especially after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traditional culture has been all but completely demolished. However, the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture, with its values of benevolence, honour, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity, as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens, cannot be destroyed,” the website states.
Ms. Fréchette said she was touched by Shen Yun’s mission and the courage of its artists, who cannot perform in China where traditional culture and art forms remain suppressed.
“This [mission] touched me because I thought they were showing their guts—they had the courage to do so,” she said, noting that the artists were obviously passionate about their craft.
“There were a lot of artists who smiled. You could see the happiness of the performers. That really warmed my heart,” she said.
“I saw many who loved being on stage, who smiled—it is often those out there who caught my attention—it really attracted my eye, I thought it was beautiful.”
The costumes and production features in Shen Yun, such as the digitally animated backdrops, transported the audience to another world, said Ms. Fréchette.
The costumes are beautiful—there is sensuousness, a comfort in the costumes. I think that is so perfect.
“The costumes are beautiful—there is sensuousness, a comfort in the costumes. I think that is so perfect,” she said. “Very vibrant.”
“The [backdrops] I also found really fun, it really allowed us to escape, it was so beautiful.”
Ms. Fréchette’s daughter Emma said Shen Yun represented peace. One of the most memorable dances in the show, she said, was Phoenix Fairies. The dance features celestial maidens gliding amongst the clouds, evoking a sense of birds united in flight.
“I loved it, I loved the dresses,” said Emma. “Really beautiful.”
Ms. Fréchette said she would recommend Shen Yun to anyone interested in a fresh, new experience.
“I find that from time to time, it is important to see a world we do not know. Come with an open mind—it’s very refreshing,” she said.
Reporting by Nathalie Dieul and Justina Wheale
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 five shows in Montreal Jan. 3-6 and one show in Quebec City Jan. 8 before going on to Kitchener, Waterloo, and Toronto in its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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