MONTREAL—Shen Yun Performing Arts presents a dazzling presentation of classical Chinese dance that is a feast for the eyes. However, to many theatregoers, it also has a depth that transcends cultural boundaries and speaks to their aspirations toward understanding the meaning of life.
This reaction was shared by some of the audience members at Place des Arts in Montreal on Jan. 17.
“It was spectacular, sublime,” said Keith Meagher. “The costumes were beautiful, the dancers were amazing, and the music was awesome,” said the IT product manager, who also applauded a hallmark technical feature that’s unique to Shen Yun—the way the digital background is integrated and interacts with the stage performance.
“I loved the way the backdrops and the people [in the animated backdrops] did the imaginary part, and then the [dancers] would drop right into the scene,” Mr. Meagher said.
This innovation, which allows the performers to travel back and forth between the stage and the backdrop, is an invention for which the New York-based Shen Yun recently received a U.S. patent.
As it blazes new trails such as this one, the renowned classical Chinese dance and music company is dedicated to its mission of reviving the authentic traditional culture of China and sharing it with the world through the universal language of dance and music.
It’s a cultural heritage that has been enriched by 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, whose essence lies in the noble ideals of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. This essence, however, was all but lost following decades of communist rule in modern China.
Bringing Cultures Together Through Compassion
Classical Chinese dance provides Shen Yun with a highly expressive medium for reviving this millennia-old heritage and sharing the greatest stories representative of the moral and spiritual culture—celebrating principles such as benevolence and justice, propriety and wisdom, respect for the heavens, and the belief that good will be rewarded and evil will meet with retribution.
Mr. Meagher was drawn to these universal themes conveyed by Shen Yun’s performance.
“I also felt that there was a cross-cultural message to connect people to their higher purpose, that it wasn’t so much about Chinese culture, it was about human culture. It was about that concept of compassion that’s so important that brings cultures together,” he said.
“I didn’t feel like I was just watching something that was foreign to me. It was something that drew me in that connected me to humanity.”
Those in Mr. Meagher’s group attending Shen Yun echoed his sentiments.
“The folklore, the fairies, the fairy tales, the dragon, and all of that—absolutely, it’s the connection to the human part. It didn’t matter really about the culture. You just got transported into another dimension, a beautiful dimension,” said Sandra Villeneuve, a grants coordinator who works for the Breakfast Club of Canada.
“You realize that the life of Canada is so young, and the life of China has so many, so many more layers to it,” said Michelle de Gonzague, a retired nurse. “Having seen this, it really has opened my eyes to the length of time that our earth has been here, and to the closeness that we can have with another culture, if we understand it well. I think that’s really what touched me about it.”
‘It’s just pure joy’
“Just beautiful. I’m still speechless,” Ms. Villeneuve said, noting that the performance seemed to bring her to another world—a heavenly world.
“It’s just pure joy. It’s beauty and a connection … to make you forget about your regular worldly life,” she said. “It transports you into some other realm, that you can just completely get lost in the colours, in the movements, in the feeling.”
“I am one of those people that in the face of art, I will be completely immersed in it, and it made me feel all of that,” Ms. Villeneuve added.
“The costumes, the colours, were just out of this world, and the movement of the accessories, when it was time for the handkerchiefs and the little umbrellas, it was very, very special. It just takes your breath away to watch this,” said Ms. de Gonzague.
Ms. de Gonzague has a sister-in-law of Chinese heritage, “so it was very special,” she said. “You understand the culture better and the struggle better once you’ve seen another culture’s dance and music.”
Ms. de Gonzague described the dance movements of Shen Yun as “divine movement”—perhaps not so surprising since the name Shen Yun means “the beauty of divine beings dancing.”
Reporting by Dongyu Teng 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.