Painter and sculptor: ‘I just loved it on a number of levels’

January 24, 2014

TORONTO—Inspiration is a powerful force for those drawn to create, like Catharine MacIntosh, a painter and sculptor with a studio in Kensington Market that’s open by invitation.

Inspiration can shape ideas into visions that come to life in the material world, something to be seen and shared and felt by others. 

For Ms. MacIntosh, Shen Yun Performing Arts offered a wealth of inspiration Thursday night at the Sony Centre, conveying a sense of peace and lightness that she thought must have come from deep within the performers.

“I just loved it on a number of levels. It reminded me … how nothing like art brings out the true spirit of the heart. Nothing can say it so freely, nothing can have such an impact.”

She said Shen Yun spoke with grace through the flow of dance, showing emotions like sorrow or anguish in a single movement.

“It was really beautiful and touching,” she said.

“It felt like every part of them was poured into it.”

Shen Yun was founded on a mission to revive 5,000 years of true traditional Chinese culture. Working with performers from around the world, Shen Yun has grown to four touring companies that perform in the most prestigious theatres across the globe. 

Those artists are working to revive a heritage that has been largely lost in China today due to 60 years under communist rule, and in particular the decade-long Cultural Revolution that began around 1966 in an effort to destroy China’s traditional culture.

“The combination of the traditional, the storytelling, the dance, and then breaking through the screen with the video and the characters going off to space and coming back to earth—it was fantastic. It’s [here for] three more days. I would recommend it to anyone. It was really great.”

That screen is Shen Yun’s vividly animated digital backdrop, which extends the range of the stage to bygone eras and heavenly realms, sometimes interacting with the dancers on the stage. 

There were many elements to several of the dances that stood out for Ms. MacIntosh as an artist, including the poise of the women gliding on “flower pot” shoes in the dance Manchurian Grace.

“There was a tallness, and an elegance and a playfulness, and a beauty,” she said about the piece.

She also appreciated the props like flowers and fans that the dancers held in a number of other dances, and the synchronicity of the large-group performances. 

She said Shen Yun had a lightness to it and could use visual cues and body movements “to make your heart pound or make you feel sad or make you feel light. It was beautiful.”

Ms. MacIntosh also pointed to how the costumes contributed to that, using shades of colour to create a beautiful effect.

“And in terms of the backdrop in combination with the dancers, it’s an interesting balance because on the one hand you have the screen colour and you have the dancers in 3-D. 

“Overall, the composition needs to work together and there was always a complementary colour split that was really beautiful.”

She said Shen Yun was an inspiration.

“It gave me so many ideas,” she said. “I could almost visualize or write a story just about what it means to be true to the heart.”

She said Shen Yun made her contemplate the equality between the king and common man, the rich and the poor. 

“To treat others with love and respect, you walk through this story and you can’t help but imagine your own self in the life of the characters and what you would do in a situation.”

“The show raises your internal connection with yourself in a way,” she said.

“It was fantastic.”

“I see the hours of perseverance that must go into the training and the dance, and the rigour, the actual physical demand, the way the body has to be ready to understands itself in relation to space and also work hard every single day to attain that,” Ms. MacIntosh added. 

“But at the core far beyond all the hard work has to be a lightness of purpose, getting across the message of the peace.”

Reporting by NTD Television and Matthew Little

New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s World Company will perform in Toronto until Jan. 26. For more information, visit

The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.

Toronto, Canada
Shen Yun World Company