PARIS—Shen Yun Performing Arts International Company staged a sole performance at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, Tuesday, April 10.
The New York-based company is acclaimed world-wide for its revival of 5,000 years of ancient Chinese culture portrayed in classical Chinese dance and music.
Marguerite Bertoni, actress, director, and teacher in the performing arts, has had more than 20 years of enchanting audiences both nationally and internationally.
She was part of the Parisian audience who came to applaud the artists. It was thus, as a connoisseur, that she praised the excellence of the show.
“I think this is an acting performance, because the artist’s master movement, rhythm, gesture, and everything is extremely accurate, concise, with the ability to move from one scene to another with great ease.”
As a professional performing artist herself, Ms. Bertoni was able to appreciate the quality of the organization to produce such a spectacular.
“The costumes are very sophisticated, so I can imagine that behind the scenes it is nothing less than a beehive of activity for all the costume changes. Even though there are quite a few tricks in the trade, I can still imagine the hustle and bustle on stage and behind the scenes to get to the level the audience saw.”
The brilliant colors of the handmade ornately decorated costumes ranged from the “rainbow-colored feathery clothes” of the Tang Dynasty, to the beauty of the traditional dress of ethnic groups such as Manchus, Tibetans, Dais, Mongolians, and Uyghurs.
“What is also fascinating is the projection of the backdrops, which allows some characters to incarnate, since they appear suddenly on the screen. This is a moving animation … and then there is a transition that occurs between the backdrop and the stage, where the artists have to be extremely synchronized to be able to catch up and embody on stage the characters that are projected on the screen. It works fine, both from the stage to the screen, as well as from the screen to the stage.”
Ms. Bertoni said this effect “gives everything a dreamlike quality” as Chinese mythology and spirituality is relative.
Alluding to the fact that in ancient China, the divine have always been a part of human life, she stated that the interaction between screen and stage worked well.
“This works well because the gods are there,” Mrs. Bertoni said. “So there is this notion of a gem that is in everyone!”
However, these spiritual aspects dominant in China over 5,000 years ago, has mostly disappeared in contemporary China where six decades of communism has destroyed everything that would remind anyone of this divinely-inspired culture, the company website says. It also mentions that Shen Yun cannot be performed in the China of today.
Nonetheless, Mrs. Bertoni was struck by the quality of artists and especially the dancers.
“There was of course tremendous control of the body … Both male and female dancers have extraordinary elegance in their movements.”
Calling on her expertise and sense of stage, Ms. Bertoni said, “All traditional gestures are coded, there is really a sequence of numbers that is well controlled. On set, there are very few marks on the floor, so there is really a good control of space, extreme precision, whether at the level of where one places the feet, arms and hands, since the detail in the hand gestures is also very important.
“Everything is done in a very fast pace so that we have this feeling of fluidity. Obviously, this takes years and years of work, even if the staging of this show has not taken years, anyhow, to achieve such virtuosity, it’s years of work and body control, for sure.”
Shen Yun was launched in New York in 2006 by a group of artists, inspired to reawaken mankind’s spiritual heritage bestowed upon China five millennia ago through classical Chinese dance and the arts.
Also integral to the Shen Yun trademark is a full orchestral ensemble.
Ms. Bertoni was amazed at the harmony produced by the blending of ancient Eastern and contemporary Western musical instruments by this unique orchestra.
“What’s interesting is that you could mix traditional classical instruments with contemporary instruments. It’s always nice to mix the times and ages, and see that music has no age since we can skip even centuries.
“Music does not wrinkle and get old. Obviously of course, there are musical genres … anyway, I know very little about Chinese music, I cannot give you an accurate point of view on this, but hey, it works because there is a synchronicity between musical rhythms, and dance steps and movements that are mastered to the nearest second.”
Reporting by Edwige Ansha and translated by Rita Lynn
Shen Yun Performing Arts, based in New York, has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world, with a mission to revive traditional Chinese culture.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org