TORONTO—Toronto City Councillor John Parker has seen Shen Yun Performing Arts twice before, and after attending the renowned classical Chinese dance production again this year, he spoke of how much he is impressed and inspired every year.
“It exudes happiness and joy throughout. They seem to be enjoying what they’re doing and they’re happy to be delivering the message that they’re delivering. It’s one of happiness and optimism,” he said at the Sony Centre on Saturday night.
Shen Yun was founded on a mission to revive the Middle Kingdom’s true traditional culture, a heritage of 5,000 years that has been largely destroyed in China proper after 60 years of communist rule.
It is a culture nurtured by principles such as benevolence, justice, wisdom, and respect for the heavens, as explained on the Shen Yun website.
Mr. Parker noted that he found the themes portrayed in Shen Yun to be very spiritual.
“Very spiritual about our origins and about the guiding light that is always there that’s beyond us, that’s greater than us,” Mr. Parker said.
“The Chinese culture is deeper and richer and far more deeply rooted than the current regime in Beijing,” he noted.
Mr. Parker, a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and previously an MPP at Queen’s Park, has represented Ward 26 (Don Valley West) since 2006 and currently sits on several committees and boards.
Among them, a notable number are arts-related posts, including sitting on committees for the Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Film Board, and serving as a director for the Toronto Symphony.
Optimism and triumph
The story-based dance Ne Zha Churns the Sea is one example of the optimism that Shen Yun shares with the audience, Mr. Parker said.
The mythological tale tells of a demi-god born to a local lord and lady who instantly grows into a young boy and goes out to battle an evil dragon terrorizing the village.
“The people are minding their own business but they’re behaving themselves, doing good things. The dragon comes and torments them and makes things unpleasant for a time, but in the end the dragon is gone and the people triumph,” Mr. Parker said, summarizing the story.
He noted that he found the story very meaningful.
“The culture will endure, freedom will endure, and it will overcome all of the challenges that are being brought upon it in the current day. If you look at the vast history, what’s happening now is just a blink of an eye in the history of the Chinese culture,” he said.
“The more of this that I see, the more I recognize the depth and richness of Chinese culture and how it’s been built up and it’s thrived for decades and centuries. My respect for it grows regularly.”
China is unique in the world because its history has been passed down and documented in varying degrees of detail for 5,000 years. Over those millennia, dynasty after dynasty rose and fell, but the culture endured, making China the longest continuous civilization in the world.
Within that context, the rule of the Chinese Communist Party is relatively brief, noted Mr. Parker.
“What I keep reminding people all the time is that those who presume to speak for the Chinese people in most of the world’s forums these days, they speak for the regime, but they don’t speak for the people and they don’t speak for the country and they don’t speak for the history of the country.
“There’s something deeper, richer, and more important, that’s more deeply rooted than the regime that’s in control now, and the people will prevail,” he said.
“It will prevail over what the authorities are doing in the present day.”
‘It’s inspiring every year’
Apart from his thoughts on the current status of China, Mr. Parker also gave warm praise to Shen Yun itself and the calibre of the performers that night.
“I’m impressed with this performance every year and this year is every bit as spectacular as they’ve all been,” he said.
“It’s beautiful and it’s elegant and you can see the discipline and hard work that goes into it and the sheer joy and enthusiasm of the performers, it’s inspiring.”
“You don’t get to be that good without being disciplined,” Mr. Parker added.
He praised the leaps, flips, and tumbling techniques the dancers performed.
These are the more technical movements of classical Chinese dance, which has influenced many different dance forms, physical arts, and sports around the world. For example, ballet and gymnastics have adopted some of the techniques and flips of classical Chinese dance.
“It’s made all the more impressive with the costumes and everything else that’s flowing and adding to the energy that’s contributed by the performers, so it’s very entertaining, very impressive, and very inspiring.”
Shen Yun was a splash of colour in the midst of a grey of a Toronto winter, Mr. Parker noted.
“To see those bright cheerful colours—the oranges, the yellows, the light greens, the bright blues—just takes us away from the grey dullness of wintertime, and takes us to spring and summer and a very light, pleasant, delightful time of year.
“The colours are very welcomed, makes us feel like we’re in the tropics.
“It’s very effective, the way the backdrop and the performers combine,” said Mr. Parker.
He said each new animation or illustration brought the audience to somewhere new.
“And then the performers connect with the backdrop and the backdrop responds to the performers, so you’re constantly being reminded that the traditions go back thousands of years but the techniques are right up to date and the result of modern technology and modern techniques. It’s very interesting how they do that, very impressive.”
“It’s inspiring every year,” he said.
Reporting by Allen Zhou and Matthew Little
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s World Company will perform in Toronto until Jan. 26. 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.