TORONTO—Michelle Melles couldn’t help but notice there was a glow among audience members leaving the theatre after seeing Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Sony Centre on Friday evening.
“Everybody was coming out of the theatre with a beautiful smile on their face,” she said. “It was nice to see, it was just uplifting.”
Ms. Melles, too, was enchanted by the experience.
“It made me feel light and happy and beautiful,” she said. “It was very uplifting for the spirit.”
“It transports you to another world.”
Ms. Melles is a Toronto-based writer, producer, and director, and is currently a senior story-writer and producer for Innerspace, a daily entertainment talk show on the SpaceChannel. She has previously worked for CTV’s Fashion Television and CHUM Television.
She said Shen Yun’s performers have a divine essence to match their name. Shen Yun, translated from Chinese, literally means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.”
“The people that are performing really believe and they practice this spiritual tradition, and so it’s not just a performance to them, it’s something much more. It’s actually something that they’re living on a daily basis. That’s what you feel,” she said.
New York-based Shen Yun was formed in 2006 by leading classical Chinese artists overseas who wished to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture.
According to the Shen Yun website, the performers believe that the duty of an artist is to bring joy and inspiration to their audience. A performance must be inspired by the divine to achieve this, because the spiritual connection is the motivation to excel, or “is the heart behind each movement of the dancer and each note of the musician,” says the website.
Ms. Melles said the traditional spiritual beliefs came through in the performance beautifully.
“Buddhism and Daoism and Confucianism and so many of these very incredible spiritual traditions originate in China, so it was so beautiful to see that—it was just so nice to see this beautiful history and where it comes from, which you don”t really hear about very often,” she said.
“The different worlds that it takes you to and learning about the traditions and the storytelling, all of that was beautiful for me as a Westerner.”
Since its beginnings less than a decade ago, Shen Yun has grown to four touring companies that perform around the world simultaneously. The performance reaches almost every corner of the world except China itself, ironically, where traditional Chinese culture remains suppressed under the communist regime.
“The fact that spirituality has been deprived from the Chinese, from China, I had no understanding of that before,” said Ms. Mellas.
“It was really an eye-opener for me and it was sad that this kind of performance isn’t allowed in China.”
Ms. Melles was surprised to learn that classical Chinese dance, passed down and refined through thousands of years of Chinese history, influenced many other dance styles and movements, such as ballet and gymnastics.
“I had no idea of the breadth of the history.”
She also learned a great deal from Shen Yun’s story-based dances, which express the essence of China’s semi-divine culture and often have a moral or message to teach.
“The myths and the legends—I didn’t know any of these stories before so it was really interesting to learn,” said Ms. Melles.
She was impressed by the digitally animated backdrops, which interact with the dancers and act as an extension of the stage. “The moving backdrops helped bring the story to life,” she said.
“It was amazing, incredible, beautiful … with the screen where the dancers would come out, I’d never seen that before,” she said, adding that each aspect of the show combined flawlessly.
“The performance was incredible, the performers are amazing. What they go through to do a production like this is incredible. The costumes, the music, the dancing, the level of craftsmanship is amazing.”
She was also moved by the soloists, who sing Chinese lyrics in bel canto style. The translation of the lyrics are projected onto the backdrops, and Ms. Melles found them profound.
“It was beautiful, it felt very spiritual, it was really nice to have the translation of what the people were singing,” she said, adding that the songs reminded audiences to keep a broad perspective in life.
“It’s a reminder that we’re mortal beings and that we have a spiritual quest, and that we’re transient in our culture, and that we will die, so there’s this sense in reminding that there’s something bigger to look for.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Justina Wheale
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. 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 reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.