MONTREAL—Shen Yun Performing Arts’ particular blend of energy, grace, and spirituality made a profound impression on artistic director Yolande Lemaistre, who saw the classical Chinese dance production at Place des Arts on Jan. 8.
“I forgot everything from the beginning. I fell into it as one would into a magic potion—it gripped my heart right away. I’ve seen concerts, theatre plays, dance—this is the first show where I see perfection,” Ms. Lemaistre said.
“The dance, the costumes, the sets—everything is in harmony with the backdrop. It’s absolutely extraordinary. At the same time, even in serious or dramatic moments, [there was] a lightness that I would call child-like. It helped me rediscover and reconnect with the pure joy of childhood.”
Ms. Lemaistre is the founder and artistic director of Atout-Coeur, a Montreal-based theatre group composed of performers with intellectual disabilities or developmental disorders. The mission of the theatre group is to promote the performers’ social integration through performing arts.
For Ms. Lemaistre, it was as if time stood still while she watched Shen Yun, which presents the essence of China’s traditional culture—believed by the ancients to be passed down from the heavens.
“I watched the performance like a child—the joy of the present and of everything. The rest no longer existed,” she said.
“At the same time, there was emotion. The part about truth, compassion, and patience, this truly touched my heart. … Will humanity get there one day? This truly made me cry. The performance was full of emotion for me, and it truly made me think.”
“For me [the performance] was very meditative,” she said, adding that she felt particularly moved by the opening piece, “Following the Creator to Renew All Things.”
“I felt emotion in the first dance, when the curtain lifted and I saw them appear. … I would say that if there is a hereafter, I would like it to be like that.”
‘Nourishing for the Soul’
Accompanying Ms. Lemaistre was author and speaker Charles E. Caouette, an honorary professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Montreal, where he taught from 1968 to 1998. Mr. Caouette is recognized as a pioneer in alternative education, having co-founded Montreal’s Jonathan Elementary School and École Secondaire Le Vitrail.
“I thought the performance had a lot of poetry, symbolism, and sweetness,” he said of Shen Yun.
“I thought it was peaceful, nourishing for the soul, because there was the goodness, the truth, the patience. Perhaps it’s important that these become primary values again.”
According to Shen Yun’s website, values like benevolence and justice, propriety and wisdom, respect for the heavens—values that originated from Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism—were the essence of ancient Chinese culture. These are depicted in the performance.
“What I liked in the religious aspect is that when we were young, it wasn’t too long ago, we wanted to go to heaven later, in the hearafter. Here [in the show] it says we come from heaven, and we reincarnate and we will go back. I love thinking that we come from something beautiful and big and not from the original sin where we are bad and we have to correct ourselves,” Mr. Caouette said.
“I loved seeing this very positive vision—sweet and caring—of the meaning of life. We come from heaven and have to get ready to go back. We reincarnate and God has His plan; he makes us reincarnate so we can live different lives, different joys. I love this vision that is more positive and less punishing.”
“For me, this is not religion, it’s spirituality,” said Ms. Lemaistre.
“Yes, that is what I want to say,” added Mr. Caouette.
As an artistic director, Ms. Lemaistre appreciated the calibre of the dancers, equating it to perfection.
“The harmony of the movements, the coordination—to do something like that seems very simple, very easy, but I could see the work behind this. There were so many movements, and not a single fault. I say this is perfection. I always thought that perfection didn’t exist on earth, but I can no longer say this after seeing the show,” she said.
She also felt the show held an educational message for young people, especially “The Power of Compassion,” a contemporary piece depicting the ongoing repression in China of adherents of Falun Dafa, a spiritual discipline rooted in ancient Chinese culture.
The piece tells how a Communist Party police officer slips and hurts his knee while trying to violently apprehend young meditators. The young people stop trying to flee and help the officer. They eventually sit down together to read “Zhuan Falun,” Falun Dafa’s main text. The police officer comes to regret his actions, as understanding and sincerity pave the way to an unexpected blessing.
“The sharing of differences and the understanding of differences; you saw that at a certain moment when the one who wanted to destroy what was different from him … and how [the Falun Dafa adherents] were able to reach him,” said Ms. Lemaistre.
“This made me think of what I do in the theatre—the patience, but the understanding and then the compassion. Sometimes I have the urge to get annoyed with my actors. I would like them to understand faster. This goes through my mind, but when I’m patient, things get done. The more this is done, the more harmony there is.
“[The Shen Yun performers] knew how to do this. They practice it every day. I’m sure there are small conflicts—it’s inevitable, it’s certain, because you can’t reach this kind of harmony. But they have reached it.”
Mr. Caouette was impressed by the collaboration and unity among the Shen Yun performers.
“What struck me also was the cooperation, the sharing, helping each other to serve what’s beautiful. And they produce something beautiful. Nowadays, if you talk about sports, all relationships are competitive, to achieve a [certain] performance, to overtake one another.
“Being in the service of the beautiful, doing something beautiful together—that made me happy,” he said.
“There is beauty, but one would say that in our world we don’t know where it is anymore. We found it concentrated here tonight,” said Ms. Lemaistre.
Reporting by Mathieu Côté Desjardins and Joan Delaney
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform around the world. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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.