Montreal’s artistic community came out in droves to welcome Shen Yun Performing Arts back to their city. The New York-based company’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years and tickets are increasingly harder to come by.
Well known for its love of the arts, Montreal has shown special appreciation for Shen Yun. All five performances at Place Des Arts were sold out ahead of time, and snowy conditions and freezing temperatures didn’t keep theatregoers away.
Elegance in Movement
Chinese Classical dance is one of the most comprehensive dance forms in the world and there is no performing arts group in recent times that has taken it to the level Shen Yun has. Those who know dance have a special appreciation for the technical skill of Shen Yun’s dancers.
Nathalie Parmentier has danced ballet and contemporary dance for nine years, but she experienced a whole new world of dance at the Jan. 6 matinee show at Place des Arts.
“They’re just so flexible, I couldn’t believe it, like they’re bending in half. It was amazing actually,” she said, adding that the performers were perfectly in character.
“It’s just the grace that they have, they really portray it. … They’re just doing the dance, and that’s all that matters at the time.”
A Divine Sound
Shen Yun’s musical component adds a dimension to the performance that lends itself to the complete package. The orchestra, which combines Chinese and Western instruments, seamlessly blends with the performers on stage creating a unique audial and visual experience.
She was striking. I loved it. It moved me to tears when she sang.
— Jazz singer and actress Lynne Hamilton
The technique used by Shen Yun’s vocalists is the genuine bel canto tenor and soprano technique, which is very similar to that used by the “10 great tenors” of the past.
Jazz singer and actress Lynne Hamilton was brought to tears as she listened to an emotional performance by soprano Pi-Ju Huang.
“She was striking. I loved it. It moved me to tears when she sang,” she said.
“The power of her voice, the exactitude of her notes—she didn’t miss anything and she conveyed her emotions very well with much, much control.”
Audience members often comment on the stunning digital backdrops that accompany the dances and songs.
The backdrops create vivid animated settings designed to complement and synchronize all aspects of each performance, from the characters and colours of the costumes, to specific dance movements, to the storyline, and even particular notes played by the orchestra.
As a multidisciplinary artist who focuses mainly on painting and drawing, Lydia Schrufer especially watched for the use of colour and other elements of visual art.
“The decoration, choreography, style … the tableaus are like paintings,” Ms. Schrufer said, noting that “the backdrops are spectacular.”
“You feel transported by all the visual cues that you are getting from the show. It is very well done.”
Spirit of the Performance
In addition to the comprehensive stage production there is something else in a Shen Yun performance that audience members cherish—the spirituality in the show. China was once known as the “Land of the Divine” and this lost aspect of China’s culture—the fact that it was divinely inspired—is being revived by Shen Yun.
“When you return to a base that is very spiritually rooted, well then there’s actually something to go on. There is a lasting culture. [Shen Yun] is not just entertainment, and that’s what I appreciated most, it’s not just entertainment,” said former stage manager Radha-Prema McAllister.
China’s ancient culture is closely connected to a belief in the divine, something business owner Lucien Bouchard detected in the show.
“One would have to say that there is definitely something divine there. From beginning to end, one can see this rhythm. It’s a message, a divine message,” he said.
This was something that also resonated with Luc-Benoît Lauzon, a National Hockey League official.
“We feel the same purity in their voices and their movements. When you hear the songs, the sound of the orchestra, we feel the sincerity that’s emanated. This is the first thing that strikes you,” he said.
Neale McDevitt, an award-winning author and editor of the McGill University paper, commended Shen Yun for its ability to tell the history of classical Chinese dance.
“I wasn’t expecting … to learn the history of the dance along with watching the dance. But to learn the history of Chinese dance, it’s very interesting,” he said.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company will play in Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, and Toronto in its ongoing tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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