HAMILTON, Canada—Alison McCarthy has been dancing since she was a little girl. Her mother owns a dance school, so ballet came natural to little Alison. She is now 36 and has been dancing all her life, and has since joined her mother as a teacher at the dance school.
In the last two years, they, along with Alison’s sister Kathrine have been invited to choreograph dancers for Team Canada from the junior, senior and children’s teams. “We’ve had world champions,” said her mother Lynne McCarthy who owns The McCarthy School of Dance.
The two were in the audience for Shen Yun Performing Arts’ Sunday night show at the Hamilton Place theatre and were taking notes on the choreography.
“You observe other choreography to maybe use in your own,” explained Lynne.
They were observing the patterning of the dance, their movements and gestures, and particularly noted the way the dancers synchronize.
“It’s difficult. They have to work hard at that,” she said. “Very, very difficult to accomplish and it’s a lot of energy and a lot of stamina they need to keep it up.”
“I mean they’re standing on one leg with the leg in the air and looking pretty. It is hard to do … They have to practice a lot,” she said.
New York based Shen Yun features colourful performances of classical Chinese dance and music. Classical Chinese dance, is alongside ballet, one of the most comprehensive dance systems in the world. It requires rigorous and systematic training in form, techniques and bearing, and its rich history have also allowed it to develop a very expressive quality.
Alison noted how graceful and in control of every movement the dancers were. She expanded on all the different ways that she could appreciate Shen Yun.
“As a dance teacher, I could appreciate all the elements that were required to put on the show—costuming, lighting, sound, all the elements that went in there. It was fantastic.”
“As a choreographer, I know that we were inspired by a lot of the moves and artistry that went into the props and the costumes,” she said. She also felt they could learn from the manner Shen Yun integrated all these elements together.
“As a dancer, I was completely appreciative of the athleticism, artistry and skill all the dancers had,” she concluded.
Lynne said that she could not find any flaws in the performance. Not even in Early Spring, a dance in which the young ladies twirl flower-like handkerchiefs, while performing challenging technical feats.
“I thought that was really good… That was flawless,” she said.
Alison was particularly impressed by the dance Sewing the Flowers of Heaven, which depicts a group of celestial maidens sewing a gossamer silk cloth. Upon unfurling the cloth in the heavens, they scatter flowers of blessing for humankind.
She was fascinated by the technical aspects of the piece. “The intricate work of the hands, and positioning and everything … That was interesting,” Alison said.
Other than the dance, Lynne also found an appreciation for the spirituality, colour, and variety of the performance.
“It’s hope, it’s hopeful,” she said.
Established in 2006 by overseas Chinese artists, Shen Yun aims to reclaim and renew China’s divinely inspired cultural heritage. According to the company website, “they create a whole new production every year that seeks to offer the audience an experience they will always remember.”
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company performed three shows in Hamilton from Jan. 12-13 and is now heading to Toronto for five shows from Jan. 17-20, completing its tour of eastern Canada.For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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