MISSISSAUGA, Canada—On his second time attending Shen Yun Performing Arts, Canadian figure skating legend Elvis Stojko was just as enthralled as he was the first time he saw the renowned classical Chinese dance and music production a few years ago.
“It’s awesome,” said Mr. Stojko at the Living Arts Centre on Friday night, praising many aspects of the performance at once.
“It’s not just about the dance, it’s the expression and the professionalism, and you can tell everyone’s so trained and it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful show,” he said.
Since he saw Shen Yun the first time in 2008 at the John Bassett Theatre in downtown Toronto, he has married, and this time the Olympic medalist and World champion brought his wife, Mexican figure skater Gladys Orozco, to the show.
“My wife has never seen the show and she’s loving it,” he said.
“I was very curious to know what it was about because Elvis had told me,” Ms. Orozco said.
“You appreciate the costumes and the lights, and the effort of the dancers and the jumps, so it was really nice. I’m really happy I came to see the show.”
Founded in 2006, New York-based Shen Yun has made it the company’s mission to revive the authentic five-millennia-old culture of China, said to be divinely inspired, through spectacular music and dance.
As explained on the Shen Yun website, “Chinese dance is at the heart of what Shen Yun does. Known for its incredible flips and spins, and its gentle elegance, it is one of the most rigorous and expressive art forms in the world.”
Mr. Stojko applauded the performance as the result of “a massive amount” of effort.
“It’s energy that emotes not just to the front row, but to the whole theatre—[and] it’s not a small theatre. You can tell the energy transcends all the way to the back row.”
After reaching the top in the world of competitive sports, Mr. Stokjko saw success in a different kind of performance arena—live theatre, big screen, and TV productions—and last March starred in the Broadway production of “Chicago” in New York City and Toronto.
So it was from his perspective as a skating legend, star performer, and recipient of the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for bringing considerable honour to Canada that Mr. Stojko recognized the Shen Yun dancers’ great talent and deep commitment to their art.
“It takes years of experience and training to be able to do that naturally, and all the performers do that in such a beautiful way,” he said, adding that it gave him the feeling that it’s not simply a matter of technique and training.
“It goes beyond technique, where you spend so many hours of training,” he noted.
“Then from that point you have to let go of all the training, and dance or sing or act from within, and your own personal energy and personal spirit comes out.”
He said he observed that this personal energy and spirit came out of every one of the performers.
“It’s phenomenal,” Mr. Stojko said, adding that “everyone was spot on.”
“It reminds me, when I watch these performers, the hours and hours it takes to perfect all of this and to make it seamless and to make it look easy. … I take my hat off to them. It’s wonderful.”
Along with the athleticism and energy of the dancers, Mr. Stojko was especially impressed by the theatrical component of the performance, whether in the dance stories or large-scale dances.
“With the acting, it’s hard to do it without being able to speak, to come across and tell a story. … It’s a very difficult thing to do and they did it—amazing,” he said.
Shen Yun’s website notes that classical Chinese dance involves a dance-acting element that is unique in that it involves coordinating facial expression with physical movement, and when the two merge together, an amplified form of expression results.
Moreover, the movements of classical Chinese dance are rich in their ability to express a variety of emotions in order to portray personalities and stories of every kind.
Mr. Stojko said he was happy that he and his wife, also an athlete and performer, were able to see the show together this year.
“You have the strength of the male dancers but also the femininity, but there’s still an underlying power with the female dancers as well. I think it’s wonderful. I was really glad that we were both able to come to this show tonight,” he said.
‘Something we’d like to do every year’
For Ms. Orozco, the showcase of traditional Chinese culture with its stories and costumes and its dance and music made her think about her own Mexican heritage and its culture and history.
“It made me nostalgic and it makes me miss my country, so I really connected with the story,” she said.
“We’re very proud of what we have, … and we want everybody to get to know our culture, and it reminds me a little bit about that.”
She said she would highly recommend Shen Yun to her friends and family both in Mexico and everywhere that the show will be touring.
“It’s great to be back to see the show again,” said Mr. Stojko, adding that “each time it’s a little bit different.”
“It’s something that we’d like to do every year,” he said.
Reporting by NTD Television and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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.