TORONTO—It was Peter Kent’s fourth time seeing Shen Yun when the MP and former cabinet minister attended the renowned classical Chinese dance company’s sold-out performance at the Four Seasons Centre on Tuesday evening, Feb. 28.
“This show [tonight] is quite different. It’s a new show every year,” Mr. Kent said. “The dancers are spectacular in their movements. The costumes are very bright and always new. The orchestra is wonderful and powerfully supportive of the dance.”
The enthusiastic reception received by New York-based Shen Yun in Toronto this year—its 11th season visiting Canada’s largest city—can be seen in the sold-out performances for its entire mid-week four-show run, from Tuesday to Thursday.
Mr. Kent is also a member of the Canadian Broadcast Hall of Fame who, prior to his career in government, spent 40 years covering news in Canada and around the world, including many momentous events shaping the history of the 20th century.
With this background, it is not surprising that he highly regards not only the artistic excellence of Shen Yun but also the meaningfulness of its mission. It is to revive the 5,000-year-old traditional culture of China, with its profound moral and spiritual essence, which has been all but lost following decades of communist rule.
Celebrating Timeless Values
“I thought that the traditional values, the traditional dance and music, were wonderful,” Mr. Kent said.
“There are many lessons that we can learn today from ancient times, from the Land of the Divine,” he noted, giving recognition to the name by which China was once known—“Shen Zhou,” or “The Divine Land.”
As explained on the Shen Yun website, this name describes the belief that deities and mortals once coexisted in the Middle Kingdom and that the rich culture of humankind was transmitted by the divine.
“Values of tolerance and compassion and truthfulness, good and evil—I think this entire program inspires people to think of traditional values,” said Mr. Kent.
He pointed in particular to the dance story “A Child’s Choice,” which portrays the courage and resilience of practitioners of Falun Dafa, also called Falun Gong, who have been persecuted by the Chinese regime for 18 years.
“I also found the persecution episode very touching and very moving, with the young baby surviving the brutality of 1999, the persecution, and growing up to be a young woman who still dares to speak of the Zhen Shan Ren of Falun Dafa, Falun Gong,” Mr. Kent said.
Falun Dafa is a traditional Chinese cultivation discipline that teaches the principle of “Zhen, Shen, Ren,” or “Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance.” It emphasizes improving moral character and living a healthy lifestyle, and following its introduction in 1992, it effectively began to revive the lost traditional culture of China. Its popularity was not tolerated by the atheist communist regime, however, and it became a target of violent suppression in 1999.
Shen Yun, with its depiction of traditional values, also does not shy away from the artistic portrayal of modern-day oppression in China, and thus it is not allowed in China.
But Mr. Kent is optimistic that this will eventually turn around. “We hope that one day Shen Yun will be welcome in China and the people will be allowed to enjoy themselves freely in celebrating the values of the show,” he said.
Exemplifying the Spirit of Innovation
These values also encompass the spirit of innovation, exemplified by the U.S. patent Shen Yun received last year, in October 2016, for its method of integration between the digital background and the stage performance.
This integration received hearty applause at the Tuesday opening-night show during the performance of “Monkey King at Fire Mountain,” a story from the famous novel “Journey to the West” adapted by Shen Yun for classical Chinese dance.
This Shen Yun invention “allows performers to travel back and forth between the stage and the animated backdrop, with the animated images appearing to be lifelike extensions of the performers,” explained the news release.
To those outside China who have the opportunity to see Shen Yun, “I would suggest they get a ticket the next time the show comes to town,” Mr. Kent said. “There are many opportunities. It’s a wonderful company.”
Toronto is Shen Yun’s final Canadian stop during the 2016–17 season. This year is the first time for the company to perform at the acclaimed Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada.
Shen Yun will be continuing on this season’s global tour until May, and audiences can look forward to seeing its performers grace the stage at other prestigious venues around the world, including in Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, and the United States.
Reporting by NTD Television and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has five touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
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.