TORONTO—While many who attended Shen Yun Performing Arts on Friday left Sony Centre for the Performing Arts impressed, the trained eye of dance professor Norma Fisher-Stitt saw more than the bright colours and beautiful dancing.
“They’re all very, very well-trained and lovely performers. They’re outstanding,” she said during the intermission.
“It’s excellent,” Mrs. Fisher-Stitt praised the show and its dancers.
New York-based Shen Yun tours the world with an all-new program of classical Chinese dance and music every year.
Classical Chinese dance involves rigorous training in physical bearing, artistic expression, unique postures, and a variety of technical movements that include highly difficult techniques such as jumps, tumbles, spins, and leaps.
Mrs. Fisher-Stitt was impressed with the precision of the dancers.
"When you've seen a lot of dance you can really pick up on when something is done with a lot of precision and when its done with a good understanding of what it is you are trying to do and that you operate always at a very high skill level every time, so its not hit and miss; every performance is very solid and every number is very well done.
"The clarity of the movements, their togetherness, their group work was very, very strong. The technique was clean in that its obvious they are very well trained and they work well together as a group."
Beyond physical technique, classical Chinese dance emphasizes development of the dancer’s inner spirit, inspired by the rich moral ideals that lie at the heart of traditional Chinese culture.
“The cohesion in the core is wonderful, and they obviously have a real joy in what they’re doing, and that’s what’s important, is the joy of the dance.”
Mrs. Fisher-Stitt said there was more to that joy than just the smiles that showed on the dancers faces.
“It’s somehow a sense of the spirit that comes through. The smile can’t just be pasted on, it has to come from inside, and you can see that.
"There is just something about when a dancer is really enjoying what they are doing, you can tell by the quality of the movements and the overall energy that they put forward between dancers, they have obviously been very well rehearsed and they did an excellent job."
A graduate of Canada’s National Ballet School, Mrs. Fisher-Stitt danced with the National Ballet of Canada for four years before attending York University.
A technique teacher for many years, she has also researched the history and evolution of dance and has written on the history of Canada’s National Ballet School.
Currently a professor of dance at York University, she has in the past served as Chair of the Department of Dance, associate dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts, and associate dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
She is currently Associate Vice-President, Academic Learning Initiatives at York University.
“They’re beautifully trained as well. They’re all wonderful, wonderful dancers.”
Mrs. Fisher-Stitt said the cohesion the dancers achieved amplified the work of each individual dance.
“You have to have a real awareness of all the individuals around you . . . the whole becomes much greater than all the individuals put together and it’s very exciting for a performer when it works like that. You do have a sense of it being more than just you.
“So it’s a very exciting feeling, but for the audience as well, it’s very effective, quite a powerful tool.”
If she only had two words to describe the show, Mrs. Fisher-Stitt would say, "Wonderful pleasure."
Shen Yun will perform at the Sony Centre until Sunday, Jan. 16. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org .