VANCOUVER, Canada—Three generations of a family immersed in the performing arts were among the enthusiastic audience attending Shen Yun Performing Arts at Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday evening.
Patriarch Laszlo George is the famed Hungarian award-winning cinematographer 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.
Mr. George was accompanied by his wife, his daughter and son-in-law, and his granddaughter.
“It’s amazing,” Mr. George said of Shen Yun.“I’ll tell you why it’s amazing, this show. Everybody has to be 100 percent. Even 99 doesn’t work,” he said, noting that for Shen Yun, “it’s 100 percent—so fantastic.”
The acclaimed New York-based Shen Yun has three dance companies that travel the world every year with an all-new program of classical Chinese dance and music.
Among its artists are winners of international dance and vocal competitions and its orchestras include musicians from world-renowned symphonies and conservatories.
With a discerning eye for detail and insight into history, Mr. George paid particular attention to Shen Yun’s meticulous use of its trademark animated digital backdrops to help tell the stories of the dances.
He highlighted one piece which depicted an ancient scene of war with the Great Wall of China projected behind the dancers. He noted the importance of the detail of chimney smoke coming from the towers of the Great Wall one after the other, which served to indicate the progress of the battle.
“That’s the whole idea,” Mr. George said. “And if there was no war, it was not allowed to have any fire on these towers, because, accidentally, you [could] start a war.”
Mr. George has worked with some of the biggest names in the movie industry including Michael Douglas, Joan Collins, Richard Burton, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Robert Wagner, Linda Evans, James Earl Jones, and Faye Dunaway, to name but a few.
He has been honoured with numerous awards and nominations for films and commercials, including the Kodak New Century Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinematography, and is a three-time winner of Canadian Society of Cinematographers awards, among other achievements.
As for his thoughts on the Shen Yun production in terms of organization and cooperation, Mr. George could only say, “excellent, excellent, excellent.”
Bringing the Whole Family
It was Mr. George’s son-in-law, James Kohne, who brought the whole family to see Shen Yun.
A lighting and rigging technician in film and video production, Mr. Kohne has worked on award-winning films both in the U.S. and Canada. He had tickets for last year’s show but had to miss it because of work.
“So when I saw that it was here again this year, I brought my whole family,” he said.
“I thought the show was fabulous,” he noted.
Mr. Kohne’s own parents are professional photographers, his wife is a set decorator, and his niece a singer, songwriter, dancer, and former gymnast.
Being a set decorator, his wife, Caroline George-Kohne, was very 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, so I thought that was extremely effective. … I thought it was exceptionally original, I thought it was really great.
“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,” Mrs. George-Kohne said.
“The dances were amazing,” said her niece, Emily-Marie Kohne, who has been a dancer for nine years.
She had also studied gymnastics for years and was surprised to learn that the flips, leaps, tumbles, and other techniques she learned in gymnastics in fact originated from Chinese classical dance.
“It was really cool to see that in action, to see them incorporate that into the dances and into their traditions,” Ms. Kohne said.
Classical Chinese dance is at the core of Shen Yun’s performances. Through the ancient art form’s techniques, expressiveness, elegance, and synchronized movements, the dances tell the legends of the Chinese culture’s creation 5,000 years ago through to today.
As a dancer, Ms. Kohne could understand how much energy the dancers expend. “I was so amazed by how much they could keep going,” she said.
“I think you would have to start from a little kid and you would have to go until your teenage years before you would be able to do the level of talent that they were showing tonight.”
She and her uncle were united in their praise of Shen Yun’s Orchestra with its blend of classical Western and Chinese instruments such as the erhu and pipa.“The music was great, phenomenal. I loved the mixture of western and Chinese instruments,” said Mr. Kohne.
“I have never really seen an orchestra incorporate Chinese instruments,” Ms. Kohne said. “So it was really amazing to listen to it at a whole different level.”
“[The music] just brought out the feeling so much. I was really feeling each different piece,” she added.
Reporting by Michael Wang, Sophia Bronwen, and Cindy Chan
Shen Yun has three companies touring the world.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.