Canada’s cultural capital was host to a renaissance of traditional Chinese culture Jan. 7-11 as Shen Yun Performing Arts took Montreal by storm.
The world-renowned classical Chinese dance and music company performed six shows at Place des Arts, wrapping up on Jan. 11 before continuing on the Canadian leg of its international tour.
Montreal is a hub for the arts—film and television, radio, theatre, and publishing—in addition to fashion and cuisine. Many of these industry professionals attended Shen Yun and were lavish in their praise.
“We can’t wait to come back next year. It’s just thrilling to see. It was really, really impressive,” said Ezio Carosielli, who owns two of Montreal’s most prestigious theatres—Rialto theatre and Saint-James Theatre—as well as two dance studios.
His wife, Luisa Sassano, agreed. Sassano is executive director of le Groupe Merveilles and manages the two Extravadanza Productions dance studios, which offer instruction in ballet, jazz, musical theatre, modern dance, and more.
“It was inspirational—inspirational. … The lines, the formation; it was clean, it was precise. It was just outstanding—outstanding,” she said. “It was great artistry, through and through.”
Veteran dance teachers Francyne and Yvon Quintal have been running the award-winning Yvon Quintal Centre for Dance for over three decades.
“A lot of magic, the way they interpret, the way the choreography is done. I think it’s very, very professional and I enjoy it a lot. Very creative,” he said.
“The way [the dancers] worked together was perfect,” added Mrs. Quintal.
Yolande Lemaistre, founder and artistic director of Montreal-based theatre group Atout-Coeur, said Shen Yun was flawless.
“I fell into it as one would into a magic potion—it gripped my heart right away.” Ms. Lemaistre said. “I’ve seen concerts, theatre plays, dance—this is the first show where I see perfection.”
Publisher Henri Pavot and his wife, Lucie Bouchard, have seen Shen Yun twice before. Mr. Pavot has raved about the show to friends and family and estimates he has inspired more than 100 people to attend.
“There are no words, it’s absolutely extraordinary. It’s perfect. The music, the dance, the costumes–everything is perfect,” he said.
New-York based Shen Yun is on a mission to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture. Through a collection of story-based dances and ethnic and folk dance accompanied by an orchestra blended with traditional Chinese instruments, Shen Yun brings ancient myths and legends to life.
“There are beautiful legends,” said author, composer, performer, and publisher Marie Villeneuve. “The show itself is very beautiful. I also loved the music.”
Professional musicians also had a lot to say about the famed Shen Yun orchestra that features Chinese instruments such as the erhu and pipa. One of Bulgaria’s great musical experts, composer Vania Angelova, said she was “shocked” by the high-level performance.
“For a professional musician like me, this is my life,” she said. “I was listening to everything: the movement of phrases, the music, everything was perfect.”
Véronique Potvin, principal violist of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, said the music was soothing and exquisite.
“The melodies are beautiful,” she said. “Very, very relaxing music actually. Very good for the soul.”
Legendary Quebec archetier François Malo, a cellist and one of the world’s leading bowmakers, came with Ms. Potvin and echoed her sentiments.
“The level of the musicians is first-class, the ensemble is very good, very tight—good sound,” he said.
‘It’s so sweet’
It’s no surprise that industry elites would have high praise for a world-class performance. But Shen Yun also attracted fans from unexpected places such as the sports and culinary worlds.
CFL superstar Kyries Hebert attended Shen Yun on Jan. 11, his second time. He had a deep admiration for the performers’ physical prowess.
“I have a great respect for them, and the amount of time that they have to put into it to be able to perform at such a high level for such a long time,” said Mr. Hebert, a defensive back for the Montreal Alouettes.
“It’s very impressive. It’s not something I could ever imagine myself doing, or being able to.”
Jacques Côté, a former gymnast and gymnastics coach who once led a Canadian national team, was also impressed with the dancer’s skill and athleticism.
“It’s fantastic, they are very flexible. What impresses me is that there’s no noise—they jump and they take delivery smoothly. You see them jump, but you do not hear any noise. It’s so sweet, not just sweet, it is tricky,” he said.
Restaurant power duo Chris-Ann Nakis and her father Paul Nakis, owner of popular Montreal restaurants Baton Rouge and Schwartz’s deli, said Shen Yun’s aesthetic impact was impressive.
“It’s cultural, it’s beautiful, the costumes were lovely, the colour, everything and the artistry, very, very good,” said Ms. Nakis.
“It’s very entertaining, it’s nice to see things from other parts of the world, it’s very educational,” added Mr. Nakis.
Traditional Chinese culture was forged throughout dynasties by three pillars of Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism. The beauty of spirituality shone through the Shen Yun performers, says professor Pierre Charbonneau, and was able to elevate the audience.
“Tonight was like the cherry on the cake of a spiritual journey I’ve been on for over 40 years,” said Mr. Charbonneau after the Jan. 8 performance.
“The spiritual element, the attributes that people attributed to heavenly beings, such as beauty, goodness, truthfulness—[that’s] what I saw tonight.”
Continuing on the Canadian leg of its tour, Shen Yun will play in Quebec City Jan. 13-14, Mississauga Jan. 17-18, Vancouver Jan. 16-18, and Toronto Jan. 21-25. For more information, visit www.shenyunperformingarts.org