VANCOUVER, Canada—As an industrial design student at Emily Carr University of Arts & Design, Ellen Russell said she views arts and culture as both “really beautiful and really important.”
It was this love for culture and a passion for the positive impact arts can have on society that brought her to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Jan. 11 to see Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Ms. Russell attended the show with French teacher Maurice Broschart and said it not only taught her a lot about Chinese culture, it was also “really fun to watch.”
“It had beautiful colours, it was choreographed really well, and it was really dynamic,” she said after the performance.
“I thought the show was great. It was really good, super exciting,” added Mr. Broschart.
New York-based Shen Yun was formed in 2006 by a group of overseas Chinese artists who had a vision to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired traditional Chinese culture.
The show features a collection of story-based dance dramas that showcase legends from ancient China right up to today, performed through classical Chinese and ethnic or folk dance.
According to the Shen Yun website, China’s traditional culture and art forms have been systematically destroyed through 60 years of violent campaigns waged by the Chinese communist regime.
Ms. Russell said one of the most memorable pieces in the performance was a dance entitled Inspired Dance of the Yi, which features a dance style unique to the Yi ethnic group of southern China. With their distinct muti-coloured skirts, female dancers perform against the digitally-animated backdrop of a lush valley.
“Wearing embroidered hats and sweet smiles, they step and spin in a festival of motion. With every movement, their gorgeous, rainbow-hued skirts flutter like brilliant butterflies,” says the Shen Yun program book.
Ms. Russell also enjoyed An Early Spring, a vibrant northeastern folk dance that features challenging flips and twirls that evoke the change of seasons.
“It was incredible,” she said, adding she learned a lot about Chinese culture from Shen Yun.
“You have these ideas of what you think Chinese culture is about, realizing there’s so much [more]. Even just the different outfits and costumes, you realize how different things are.”
Mr. Broschart said he was surprised to find out that although Shen Yun performs all around the world, it cannot play in China, where traditional culture and art forms remain suppressed.
“That was interesting. I never really thought of that,” he said.
“It was honest,” added Ms. Russell.
Reporting by Chen Si and Justina Wheale.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s Touring Company will play five shows in Vancouver Jan. 10-13, while the New York Company will complete its tour of eastern Canada with five shows in Toronto Jan. 17–20. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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