TORONTO—Veteran broadcasting executive Denise Donlon has received an impressive list of awards and accolades throughout her long and successful career in television. But it was her turn to sit in the audience’s seat on Thursday, as she took in Shen Yun Performing Arts.
She was awed by the cultural and spiritual expression of the performance, she said after the Jan. 23 opening night at Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
“The idea that you can express so much about human compassion and the human condition—also the beauty of what we can be—all expressed on that stage, it’s a big awakening for me in many ways and I’m thrilled to be here.”
Former president of Sony Music Canada and executive director of CBC Radio, Ms. Donlon was also the host and producer of groundbreaking music programs in the early days of Citytv, and MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic.
She currently co-hosts the current affairs program The Zoomer with media mogul Conrad Black, and has received multiple awards throughout her career including two Geminis and the Order of Canada.
Ms. Donlon was drawn into the myths and legends of Shen Yun’s story-based classical Chinese dance.
“The choreography is fascinating but most of all I love the stories,” she said. “I’m learning so much about Chinese cultural history, and my favourite part was the [traditional values] truth, honesty, and compassion.”
She also appreciated the variety of the stories, which span China’s multi-faceted dynasties and ethnic regions, right up to today. Each Shen Yun performance includes about 20 presentations of music and dance.
“They’re all lovely, they’re all different.”
“The transitions are very quick for those of us with short attention spans, and I love the fact that there is an underlying message all the way through it,” said Ms. Donlon.
According to the Shen Yun website, each story expresses cherished virtues of traditional Chinese culture, and has a timeless message or moral to teach.
“It’s colourful, it’s beautiful. It’s beautifully danced,” said Ms. Donlon. “It touched my heart.”
Formed by overseas Chinese artists in 2006, Shen Yun’s mission is to revive the essence of China’s 5,000-year-old divinely inspired culture—a culture that has been decimated under decades of repression by the Chinese communist regime.
Ms. Donlon, a board member of the Governor General’s Lifetime Achievement Performing Arts Awards, said audiences are enriched by Shen Yun’s cultural expression.
“I think you can learn a lot through the arts, and if we trust our artists to tell us the truth then we can all be enlightened,” she said.
She also appreciated the technical skill of the dancers, combined with the costuming and design elements.
“I think the show is top-notch is terms of presentation and performance, the dancers are fantastic,” she said. “I would give it a two-thumbs up.”
As a frequent arts patron, Ms. Donlon said the Shen Yun’s talent was at the top of its class. The high levels of training was especially evident in the large-scale group dances, she said.
“With 15 people on the stage at the same time, the artistry is very interesting. The dancers very accomplished,” she said.
She noted the jumps and flips of classical Chinese dance. These highly technical moves were later incorporated and became gymnastics and acrobatics.
She said she was struck by the lightness of the female dancers and how they made extremely difficult movements seem effortless.
“When you see the female dancers you think they’re beautiful and they’re light, and nobody weighs more than a feather but what they’re doing is very difficult,” she said.
“They managed to convince you that it’s very easy but it’s really very hard.”
The hundreds of handmade costumes were an inspiration, she added.
“There’s so many costume changes, lots of colour,” she said. “I really like the fashion with the long pieces of drapery down the arms, I think we could wear that—that could be a Western fashion as well.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Justina Wheale
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 Sunday. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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.