TORONTO—Despite traffic like she’s never seen before in Toronto, Polish newspaper publisher Margaret Bonikowska made it to the Saturday night Shen Yun Performing Arts presentation at the Sony Centre.
“It’s beautiful, I find the choreography is impressive,” she said about the acclaimed classical Chinese dance production.
“The whole experience is very moving,” Ms. Bonikowska said.
Shen Yun was established in New York in 2006 with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture through the universal language of music and dance.
Ms. Bonikowska, publisher of the Polish Gazeta Gazeta since 1998, last year received the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada Award as well as the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Ontario Volunteer Service Award.
She holds a doctorate degree in linguistics from the University of Warsaw and a master’s degree (distinction) in language studies from Lancaster University in the U.K.
In 2005 she was honoured with the Knights Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, awarded by the President of the Republic of Poland.
Ms. Bonikowska had heard a lot about Shen Yun and developed an interest in Chinese history and culture.
“The colours, the choreography, and the costumes, gorgeous! It’s very large-scale, it’s very beautiful and very imaginative,” she said, adding that “the whole show is very poetic.”
Shen Yun features the world’s premier classical Chinese dancers, a unique orchestra, handmade costumes, original backdrops, and bel canto vocalists show sing Chinese lyrics.
Ms. Bonikowska praised Shen Yun’s choreography and the female members of its cast especially.
“They are so feminine, so beautiful,” she said.
One of Shen Yun’s unique features is the blend of sounds produced by classical Western and traditional Chinese instruments. The erhu, known as the Chinese two-string violin, is said to be one of the most moving instruments.
“A quality especially suitable for conveying the grand pageant of China’s history and the emotions of its people,” states the company’s website.
‘The music is very powerful’
“What a gorgeous sound,” Ms. Bonikowska said about the erhu solo performed by Qi Xiaochun.
“The music is very powerful,” she said.
According to the Shen Yun website, Chinese music is capable of evoking not only very natural scenes—because the instruments are made of materials found in nature—but also heavenly scenes.
“I love the music. The music just makes you wander to various places. It’s different from my culture but I think it’s very universal in many ways because through music people can understand each other,” she said.
Shen Yun also has two MCs who introduce each song and dance to the audience. Ms. Bonikowska expressed her appreciation for having the MCs speak in two languages—English and Chinese.
The whole show is very poetic.
—Newspaper Publisher Margaret Bonikowska
“[Chinese] is a very melodious beautiful language … it’s the music and the language. I’m glad they did it in two languages, I think that was a perfect thing,” she said.
Being an ethnic newspaper’s publisher, Ms. Bonikowska stays well connected in the Polish community. She said that after the first round of Shen Yun shows last December in Mississauga, where a large Polish community resides, her readers gave a lot of feedback about the show.
“They said that this is a totally different experience. … It raised interest, they’re going to be reading about it and watching for it,” she said.
“For us China is such a mystery country in the sense that there’s … so much contemporary high-tech, but on the other hand you have such [a] deep fantastic culture that is going back so many thousands of years, incredibly impressive,” Ms. Bonikowska said.
Reporting by Teng Dongyu and Kristina Skorbach
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 finishes its run of five shows in Toronto on Sunday. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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