TORONTO—It was the third time for Michael Prue, Ontario MPP for Beaches-East York, to attend a performance by Shen Yun Performing Arts. The New York-based arts group opened a four-day run at the Sony Centre (formerly known as the Hummingbird Centre) on Thursday.
“It is unique each and every time,” Mr. Prue said.
He appreciated the artistry and athleticism of the dancers, the beauty of the costumes, and was also impressed by Shen Yun’s music, a masterful fusion of Chinese and Western instruments.
“The orchestra was brilliant,” he said, adding that “[Qi Qiaochun,] the woman who played the erhu, was absolutely brilliant.”
The show’s spiritual elements also stood out to him, especially against the backdrop of the repressive communist regime in China.
“The spirituality of the Buddhists, some of the wiser and spiritual things of the Confucians, and it was all intertwined in the former glories of China,” he said. “Quite well done,” he said.
“That’s why I come back, I like it.”
Established in 2006, Shen Yun has set out to revive the beauty and essence of traditional Chinese culture through colourful performances of classical Chinese dance and music. Many of these traditions, which were based on Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist thought, have been suppressed and then denatured by the Communist regime during its 62-year rule.
Mr. Prue said he believes that this culture can be appreciated by both Chinese and Westerners.
“I think it’s very good. Not only do traditional Chinese admire and like and probably know most of the concepts, but for the wider Canadian audience, it’s a starter, it’s a way to understand—it’s a primer.”
In fact, he noted certain similarities to Western culture in Shen Yun’s story-based dances, which spanned the beginning of Chinese civilization to contemporary history.
“Most of them are parables. They are very much like the parables taught by Christ,” he noted.
“They’re taught in terms of listening to a story that’s funny and you can understand that there’s a message behind it, and the message behind most of them is that if you’re good, you will be rewarded, and if you’re bad, you won’t. And even if the bad wins out on earth, in the end, the good will have their day.
“It’s a pretty simple message,” he said.
In its performances, Shen Yun also raises contemporary issues in China, including the plight of Falun Gong practitioners being persecuted by the Chinese regime.
The message, however, is always hopeful, that those who are good will be rewarded and those who commit wrongdoing will ultimately be punished.
“That’s part of the message and part of what Falun Gong teaches–it’s an old traditional Buddhist, Confucian message that was known in China for thousands of years.”
Elected as a East York Councillor in 1988, Mr. Prue served as the mayor of East York from 1993 to 1997 before the municipality joined the City of Toronto. He went on to serve as a city councillor and then entered provincial politics.
During his career as a politician, he met with Chinese delegations, with whom he raised the issue of democratic dissent, as well as the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners.
“I’ve told visiting Chinese delegations, ‘Lighten up a little. Let people say and think what they want. In the end it won’t harm you and it will probably do you good,’” said Mr. Prue.
“On the day that this happens in China, China will truly be a great nation,” he said.
Reporting by Matthew Little and Madalina Hubert.
Shen Yun will perform at the Sony Centre until Sunday, Jan. 16. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.