TORONTO—Shen Yun Peforming Arts gave its audiences at the Sony Centre on Jan. 24 a performance that draws on the richest historical record in the world: 5,000 years of Chinese civilization.
China was once known as The Divine Land (Shen Zhou), a land with a deep spirituality rooted in Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. It’s a heritage largely lost in China today, but something Shen Yun is working to revive.
At its two Jan. 24 performances, Shen Yun brought the myths and legends of ancient China to life onstage, leaving audience members contemplating the spiritual dimension of human existence.
Daria Valeyeva and Yuriy Sulakov were among the last people to leave the theatre that evening, sitting in their seats after the show contemplating what they had just seen.
“I really loved the show. It is very colourful and very natural, and very real,” said Ms. Valeyeva, an accountant.
Shen Yun was founded on the mission to revive China’s age-old divinely inspired culture which was all but destroyed after to the arrival of communism in 1949. It’s a heritage Mr. Sulakov noted has tremendous value.
“I believe that it empowers people to stand up for what they believe in,” he said.
“It is very deep and emotional, and as Daria said it is very colourful and beautiful. I love how they blended traditional Chinese culture and how they made it so accessible and easy for us to grasp. It is wonderful what they have done. It’s an absolutely beautiful, beautiful show, beautiful music, beautiful costumes—you name it.”
Although the performance was two-and-a-half hours long, Mr. Sulakov didn’t want it to end. “We wish it was at least twice as long,” he said.
It was the second time for Dr. Henry Moller a medical doctor, psychiatrist, and university professor to see Shen Yun. He works in holistic health and came because of his interest in medically supervised meditation practice and other spiritual health practices.
“I am just very grateful to be able to come again and to learn a little bit,” he said.
He found that the stories played out onstage not only had depth, but were also universal in their appeal.
“There was a young child sitting next to me and she was mesmerized and giggling at some of the scenes.”
He said Shen Yun was full of splendour with a “lovely palette of colours,” but if he had to describe it in one word, he’d say it was inspiring.
“I think inspiring would be the best word,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed Shen Yun’s “emphasis on traditions and deep roots but also on the human spirit.”
He saw similarities between China’s traditional spirituality and that of western religions: “The idea of compassion, kindness, and relating to other human beings.”
‘A Great Experience’
John Wannamaker, director of operations for a real estate company, also saw the connection between Chinese traditional spiritual beliefs and those in the West.
“It was heaven and earth and how we interrelate,” he said. “It is relevant today, because, I believe that we are all interconnected whether it be through our own minds, being, or soul.”
“It was a great experience,” he said of the performance.
Arborist Justin Grenier attended the show on opening night, Jan. 21.
“I just really appreciated the presentation of the historical context of the Chinese civilization and appreciated the religious conveyances that were in the pieces of looking towards a higher power. That was really interesting to me,” he said.
He said he liked watching how the ancient Chinese understood the divine and the interaction between gods and humans, and also how humans can become more like gods.
“As humans beings we’re embodied creatures in the physical world so that’s our context. But we imagine ourselves to be something more,” he said.
He said Shen Yun demonstrates ideals of “selflessness and generosity.”
“I think the more we’re exposed to virtue and to positive role-modelling, the more likely that people are to do that themselves, and to transform their lives,” he said.
Pat Giannone retired young after building a successful job placement business. He attended the performance with girlfriend Natalie Lam.
For Mr. Giannone, much of traditional Chinese spirituality fit with his own personal spiritual understanding, including having a divine destiny, a soul that never perishes, and the idea of karmic retribution for wrongdoing.
“They say the better you are in this life, the better you will be in the next life. But the worse you are … you get what you deserve,” he said.
“That is the way I see it too,” said Ms. Lam, adding that Shen Yun was a reminder that “if you treat people like that, that is what you get.”
“I think people forget the meaning of life,” she said.
Mr. Giannone said China’s long civilization has given it time to develop a depth of understanding.
“Age-old wisdom, as I would call it. Wisdom for the times,” he said.
The lessons of the past have relevance today, he added. “I think we are too distracted in life, with celebritism, media. It’s a 24/7 news cycle, people are oversubscribed.”
Reporting by Quincy Yu and NTD Television
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. Shen Yun’s International Company will perform in Toronto until Jan. 25. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reaction since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.