VANCOUVER—With its presentation of 5,000 years of history compressed into two hours of entertainment and cultural education, Shen Yun Performing Arts left Vancouver audiences a little richer once again.
The New York-based company played its final show in Vancouver on Feb. 5 before continuing on with its world tour. The Touring Company will be in Calgary, Edmonton, and Regina in April.
Throughout Shen Yun’s four-show run at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the audience burst into spontaneous applause during several of the pieces. Each year Shen Yun brings audiences a brand new program consisting of dances, songs, and ancient Chinese legends.
Famed Hungarian award-winning cinematographer Laszlo George who for more than 50 years has experimented with light through cinematography in over 100 films and produced stunning artworks through his mastery of abstract photography, attended the Saturday evening show with three generations of his family.
He summed up the dedication and precision with which the performance was presented.
“I’ll tell you why it’s amazing, this show,” he said. “Everybody has to be 100 percent. Even 99 percent doesn’t work.”
His daughter, set decorator Caroline George-Kohne, was keenly interested in Shen Yun’s digitally animated backdrops that provide imagery for each performance, whisking the audience to distant lands across the Middle Kingdom.
“I loved the visual effects in the background. I have never seen that incorporated with the use of the stage show. I thought that was extremely effective. … I thought it was exceptionally original, I thought it was really great,” she said.
“At times I did think that we were in China. I loved the snow effect. I loved the clouds. I loved the perspective of the mountains from a technical point of view.”
Shen Yun’s orchestra is a unique blend of classical Chinese instruments leading the melodies with a philharmonic orchestra laying the foundation. As one example, the orchestra includes two types of flutes: China’s bamboo flute, and the classical western flute.
Holly Burke, an accomplished musician known for her magic on the flute and a voice to go with it, sang the praises of the orchestra.
“They played so beautifully, professionally, I thought it was impeccably played; lovely flute work, love the gong. I wish I had a gong in my band.”
Renowned Canadian fashion designer Rozemerie Cuevas fell in love with traditional Chinese couture at after seeing the show on Saturday afternoon.
“The show was fantastic,” said the designer, who has won international acclaim during her quarter-century career in the industry.
“The costumes were absolutely beautiful. The selection of colour, the choice of fabric, and how they flowed with the dance was really very appropriate.”
Much like the legendary tales played out in some of Shen Yun’s pieces, audience member Qiu Mingwei’s has faced a harrowing journey of his own in China.
As a former deputy director at China’s state-controlled newspaper the People’s Daily, Mr. Qiu fled from the country in 2009 to avoid persecution. His crime? Participating in a pro-democracy march in Hong Kong and advocating for human rights in China.
“Watching the show, I can see that the Shen Yun dancers have undergone arduous training. They really embody the [Chinese proverb] ‘One minute onstage, ten years of practice.’ Their dances can only be deemed a success,” he said.
“The presentation of the program How the Monkey King Came to Be was very sincere, and in just a short dance, it gave the audience a glimpse of God-given Chinese culture. … The show passes on divinely inspired Chinese culture.”
Among the audience on opening night was renowned Taiwanese artist Chang Chun Chieh, who serves as a consultant for the Chinese Canadian Artists Federation in Vancouver.
“The performance was very fulfilling, fantastic, and profound,” said Mr. Chang.
“The design of the backdrops, the movements of the dancers, and the transition between the different scenes all transcended time-space and showcased history, the present, and the future.
Mr. Chang said Shen Yun guides its audience to “understand the present day with respect to history, understand humanity with respect to oneself, and understand the future with respect to the present.”
“It guides people to ponder about the world and the meaning of life,” he said.
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, tours the world on a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world.
For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org