TORONTO—With an eye for dance and an ear for music, professional business writer Beth Parker found Shen Yun Performing Arts to be an experience like no other.
As the owner of a communication consultancy and with a master’s degree in journalism, Mrs. Parker had no trouble finding words to describe the renowned classical Chinese dance production’s performance at Toronto’s Sony Centre on Friday night.
Mrs. Parker, who danced ballet for over 10 year as a child, had great admiration for the skill of Shen Yun’s dancers, commending their “incredible body control and muscle control.”
Having trained in the rigours of ballet, she had a great appreciation for the work it takes to be able to perform the feats of classical Chinese dance.
“The exercises you would need for your leg muscles alone, people would have no idea,” she said.
Classical Chinese dance is the hallmark of Shen Yun. This ancient art form has been passed down for thousands of years within China and is undergoing a revival through the artistry of Shen Yun Performing Arts, regarded as the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company.
In addition to unique Chinese movements and postures, classical Chinese dance also incorporates many difficult jumping and tumbling techniques.
“[It] is really good to see,” said Mrs. Parker about those challenging techniques being performed with skill and grace by the Shen Yun dancers.
“I think it’s also fun to see for families because even kids love to see that. And the athleticism that you need to do that is unreal,” she noted.
“I love the back flips, but the jumps, they were getting several feet off the stage, that was really impressive.”
One of the dance pieces that particularly caught her attention was the “Mongolian Bowl Dance,” in which female dancers balance bowls on their heads while performing a dance of welcome.
“I love the dance with the bowls on the head because it really shows you how you can move the body but keep the head perfectly still,” said Mrs. Parker
Shen Yun’s live orchestra is unique in that it combines the musical traditions of the East and the West, creating a sound that perfectly complements the dancers onstage. With a Western philharmonic structure supplying the foundation, Chinese instruments play the melodies.
Mrs. Parker, who has studied music for years, enjoyed the combination.
“You just get a deeper richer sound,” she said. “ It was interesting to me to see the instruments combined. I don’t think you often see that. In all my years of music I don’t think I’ve ever seen them combined like that and it works really well.”
Shen Yun’s mission is to revive 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture, a culture that has suffered over the past six decades under the communist regime in China.
“I feel it’s inspired,” said Mrs. Parker about the show. “It also shows you, you can’t keep a culture down.”
“Years and years of classical dance … and music like that, nothing is going to stop it and I think they have proven that.”
Reflecting on the value of the performance, Mrs. Parker added: “I think it’s just a really enjoyable way to watch any kind of dance, and if you like dance at all everyone would enjoy it.
“I also think that if you weren’t used to going to dance you’d enjoy it [as well].”
Reporting by NTD and Ryan Moffatt
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 will play five shows in Toronto Jan. 17-20, completing its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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