Toronto theatregoers are in for a taste of excellence in dance, music, and song with five Shen Yun Performing Arts shows playing at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts this weekend.
On Jan. 17–20, Toronto audiences can enjoy Shen Yun’s particular brand of magic as the New York-based group concludes the Canadian leg of its international tour.
Since its inception in 2006, Shen Yun has brought together the talents of world-class dancers, choreographers, singers, and musicians from around the globe in order to fulfill its mission of reviving China’s authentic traditional culture.
Shen Yun has already played several venues in Canada, drawing full houses and sold-out shows and garnering praise from audience members captivated by the show, whose centrepiece is classical Chinese dance, an ancient art form that evolved over the Middle Kingdom’s 5,000-year history.
In a letter of greeting, Prime Minister Harper called the performance “a wonderful opportunity to experience an exquisite presentation of classical Chinese dance and music inspired by traditional Chinese culture.”
Many leading members of the Canadian artistic, business, and political community expressed their appreciation after attending this year’s all-new production.
Professional vocalist Susan Gudgeon has performed with all the major opera companies and symphonies across Canada in her extensive career, as well as with many theatre companies such as the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival.
She took in the performance in Hamilton and was particularly impressed by Shen Yun’s bel canto soloists.
“I felt they sang with such commitment and belief, and that was something that was very impressive,” she said, adding that she was also thrilled with the dynamic of the East-meets-West orchestra.
It was dynamite. The precision, the choreography, the music, the colour, the costumes, the dress—wonderful, fantastic.
— Queen’s Counsel lawyer and former UN delegate Tom Sutherland
“The orchestra was fabulous. I loved the combination of the classical Western instruments with the Chinese. They were amazing.”
Renowned ballet dancer James Nesbitt trained and danced at the finest ballet schools and companies before heading the dance department of Ridley College that later gave out an award in his name.
“It’s timeless. The production was beautifully done,” he said after seeing Shen Yun in Hamilton last weekend.
Queen’s Counsel lawyer and former United Nations delegate Tom Sutherland also saw the show in Hamilton. Mr. Sutherland, who has been an acting mayor of Burlington and a deputy judge, and serves on the board of several companies and organizations, was impressed.
“I was overwhelmed. It was dynamite. The precision, the choreography, the music, the colour, the costumes, the dress—wonderful, fantastic. I’ve been to Hong Kong 33 times and Taiwan 13 times, but I’ve never had an opportunity to see this kind of show there.”
‘A new form of art’
Many theatregoers heap praise on Shen Yun’s unique animated backdrops, which interact with and enhance the story-based dances.
Architect Patrick Malard, who has led architecture projects since the 1980s and worked in Europe as well as across Canada, called the backdrops “a new form of art.”
“It starts off very simple,” said animator Mike Hogue, who saw the show in Hamilton.
“Then when you all of a sudden have these surprises of people coming out of the screen, it’s just, ‘Oh my gosh, okay, this is something really different, really innovative,’” said Mr. Hogue, whose film credits include “Titan A.E.,” “Anastasia,” “Stoked,” and “George of the Jungle.”
According to the Shen Yun website, China’s traditional culture was divinely inspired, and MP Stephen Woodworth who comes to see Shen Yun every year, detected the spirituality and optimism in the show.
“It reminds us that whatever difficulties we face in this life, we always have hope,” he said after seeing the show in Kitchener-Waterloo.
He also noted the importance of Shen’s Yun’s mission to revive genuine Chinese culture.
“I think that there’s been a great richness and a great vibrancy in the Chinese culture for many thousands of years, so it’s well worth preserving,” he said.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. After completing successful shows in Quebec City, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Hamilton last week, Shen Yun’s New York Company will complete its tour of eastern Canada with five shows in Toronto. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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