In honour of these traditions, a Chinese cultural show is coming to Toronto this fall to entertain and celebrate the depth and glory of 5,000 years of an ancient civilization.
Yet what the New York-based Divine Performing Arts presents through its Mid-Autumn Spectacular is something that even those living in China today have never seen.
Ever since the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party has spared no effort in tarnishing the value and essence of China’s ancient traditions, with the result that China’s true culture was all but wiped out.
Profoundly influenced by Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, Chinese culture has profound inner meaning. The virtues of propriety, goodness and piety are intrinsic to this ancient culture, but have little in common with the atheistic and autocratic values of the communist regime.
With its mission of bringing to the stage works of “consummate beauty and goodness,” Divine Performing Arts aims not only to showcase the outer splendor of an ancient culture but also its inner virtues.
Through large-scale vibrant performances of Chinese classical dance and vocal and instrumental music, the group aspires to reach audiences by engaging the senses and touching hearts.
Since it began staging the Spectacular in 2004, Divine Performing Arts has earned high praise from audiences from all ages, backgrounds, nationalities and professions. In the last year alone, the company has performed before about half a million-audience members on four continents.
“There’s a lot of depth to it, and a lot of meaning. They take it very seriously, and it’s beautiful to see,” said ballet dancer Vanessa Harwood after seeing the Spectacular in Toronto last January. Harwood was a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.
Ottawa Mayor Larry O’Brien called the Spectacular “riveting, intriguing, and beautiful to watch,” while many dignitaries and artists have lauded the show’s high artistic caliber. In a congratulatory letter to the performers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper praised the “colourful, handmade costumes, brilliant choreography and outstanding musical composition.”
Blending the strength and vigor of western wind and string instruments with the delicate sounds of traditional Chinese instruments, the Divine Performing Arts Orchestra produces a full, stirring sound. Featuring mostly original compositions and arrangements, the music has been a worthy companion to the graceful moves of the dancers.
In the 2008 Spectacular, dances such as Ladies of the Manchurian Court, Drummers of the Tang Court and Lady of the Moon took the audience on a journey through the time of the ancient dynasties.
The Risen Lotus Flower and The Power of Awareness, which depict the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, conveyed an aspect of China in more contemporary times. The injustice of the persecution and Falun Gong’s principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance touched many people’s hearts.
“Here is a show that is giving out a message to people and people should hear that message,” said Raven Blackwell who saw the Spectacular in Edmonton. “Have compassion for your fellow man and woman. It’s a message other people should understand and hear.”
The Divine Performing Arts Mid Autumn Spectacular will play at the John Bassett Theatre in the Toronto Convention Centre from September 24-28.