TORONTO—Shen Yun Performing Arts finished its opening night show to resounding applause Friday Night at the historic Canon Theatre in downtown Toronto. Among the patrons to take in the show were a pair of composers who shared their thoughts on the music and artistry of the classical Chinese dance company.
"Very impressive, particularly the ensemble and presentation, immaculate, thoroughly enjoyable," said Mr. Nimmons, a composer and Juno-award winning jazz musician.
"The choreography of the dancers, the precision, is quite impressive. Also I find the choice of colours were quite distinctive, like the blue was a new kind of blue, they were quite striking when they came out."
Mr. Nimmons is one of Canada's most acclaimed jazz musicians. He has taught jazz at several major Canadian universities and is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour. His recordings were radio regulars and he has written music for several Canadian television shows.
"Everybody must work very hard to do what they do all that time, so precisely," he said of the Shen Yun performers.
He said the orchestra was something new to him with its mix of Chinese and Western music.
"It was an entirely different thing," he said.
"I think the orchestra fulfilled what it was supposed to do visually, it did it very well, it was very effective. I thought the instrumentation was handled well."
He gave particular acclaim to Xiaochun Qi's solo performance on the erhu, China's two-stringed instrument.
"It was just beautiful, absolutely beautiful. There's a certain quality to that, you feel differently with that kind of music."
He was also taken by the drumming pieces. Shen Yun staged two of its drumming numbers in Friday's performance: The Five Millennia Begin and Drummers of the Tang Court. In the first number, female dancers wheel out large Chinese drums on carts and whirl about the stage as they beat a thunderous welcome to China's legendary Yellow Emperor. In the Tang Dynasty number, male drummers vigorously stomp and drum in a vivacious performance celebrating the famed men of the Tang Dynasty.
"It relates to all of us, rhythm, it's in all of us," Mr. Nimmons said of the drums.
But it was the combination of music, dance, backdrops and choreography that gave the show its wonder, he said.
"It's very very impressive, the total effect involving all the technology, the background, and everything."
"The costumes were just fantastic. … The entire production is very impressive, really all the things that they have done, quite good, most enjoyable."
When asked how he would rank the show out of 10, he immediately answered "15."
"I've become far removed from stage shows, which I did many years ago, and so it is good to be back in this theatre … good to come back and see it with this new kind of production."
"Quite inspiring and stimulating."
“Moving,” he said in a word.
Mr. Nimmons was joined by Mr. Braid, another jazz musician and composer touted as one of Canada most gifted pianists and composers.
Mr. Braid was also taken aback by Xiaochun Qi's solo.
"I loved the moment when the lady played the erhu, it really stood out—beautiful," he marveled.
Mr. Braid said he enjoyed the mixture of Chinese and Western music and found himself wanting to hear more Chinese instruments.
"The most interesting parts of it were when the composer was trying to give us more of the essence of the ethnic background, so I found myself listening, like when the pipa had a bit of a solo, I found my ears tuning in to the details."
Like Mr. Nimmons, Mr. Braid was most impressed with the overall package Shen Yun presented.
"Beautiful and graceful. The costuming was lovely—the colours were lovely."
He added that the backgrounds were also beautiful.
Among his accolades, Braid has won jazz pianist of the year, a Juno award, and been honoured by the Canada Council for the Arts.
Shen Yun will stage three more shows in Toronto before returning to Canada in late January with it's new program for 2010.
For more information visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org