After completing a successful run in Ottawa last week, Shen Yun Performing Arts will play eight shows in Toronto this week, then go on to Montreal, Quebec City, Mississauga, Hamilton, and Kitchener.
Shen Yun unveiled its new 2018 program south of the border on Dec. 22, and its five touring companies are currently performing simultaneously across the United States and in Eastern Canada.
Ticket sales have been going strong. For the Ottawa shows, despite frigid temperatures, large crowds packed the National Arts Centre for all four performances from Dec. 28 to 30. To accommodate the demand for tickets, the presenters opened the mezzanine box seats for sale for the Dec. 30 Saturday matinee, which sold out.
This season, the New York-based group will put on over 500 shows in more than 130 cities in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. A new stop this year is Tel Aviv, Israel, in March 2018. One of the companies will also play in Vancouver in March.
Shen Yun was founded in 2006, when a group of elite Chinese artists living in the West came together, united by a wish to revive China’s authentic 5,000-year-old culture and share it with the world—a culture that was almost destroyed after the communist regime took power in 1949.
According to former MP and secretary of state David Kilgour, who has seen the show in Ottawa nearly every year it’s come since 2007, the lavish production of classical Chinese dance and music just keeps surpassing itself.
“This year was wonderful,” said Kilgour, who attended the Dec. 29 show at the NAC.
“I don’t know how [Shen Yun keeps] getting it better—the dancing, the costumes, the background scenes, the singing, the humour. … I think it’s the best show I’ve ever seen in, what, 11 years? So I don’t know how they’re going to keep on getting it better and better each time, but this year’s was fabulous.”
Opera singer Thomas Franzky was also thrilled with the performance, noting in particular the soprano and the erhu solo.
“When I heard the erhu piece, I was struck by the delicacy of the sound that came out. Not only that, but the artist herself was very sensitive with her playing and with her interpretation, and she was really doing a duet with the pianist, and the two of them together was exquisite,” he said.
“I was very impressed [by the soprano],” he added. “The moment that sound came from her mouth it was so pure, so powerful. I’ve studied voice for 22 years with an opera singer myself, and I’m familiar with the bel canto technique, and she was really outstanding.”
‘Everything is just so perfect’
Lawyer and law firm partner Rita Asangarani said she’s been coming to the show for nine years, since she was a university student, and she’s always impressed.
“I love the art, the beauty of it, the costume design. I like the martial art elements built into the dance. I love the music—the live music is always captivating, it works so well with the design,” she said.
“You see the beautiful dancing and the connection it has with the divine element to the dance, bringing in the stories of these ancient traditions and beliefs and presenting it in a beautiful dance.”
Dyann Goyette, a former figure skater, described the show as “just magnificent.”
“I have a very specific eye for choreography and movement, being an ex-figure skater, so I appreciate the choreography and the dance. It’s just magnificent,” she said.
“I’m also a seamstress so I do a lot of costume design. I can appreciate how lovely the costumes are, the beautiful colours, the silky fabrics. Everything is just so perfect.”
Dave Gallson, national executive director of the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, attended the matinee show on Dec. 30 with his wife, Lucy.
“We loved it. It was absolutely wonderful. It was breathtaking. … We’ve gone to a lot of theatre but we’ve never gone to something like this,” he said.
The comedic aspect of some of the pieces impressed Mark Perry, an engineer and owner of several manufacturing companies.
“It was more comical than I thought it would be,” he said, referring to dance story “Buffoonery in the Schoolyard” as an example.
“It was very well done. We really enjoyed the parts that were funny and very artistic. It was nice to know some of the history, and the costumes were amazing. The music was interesting as well.”
Monica Demers, a former dancer, said she felt drawn into the performance.
“They bring you into the performance. You are made part of the performance from beginning to end. You’re a spectator, but you are brought into the whole spectacle. That’s how I found it,” she said.
“It’s fantastic. There aren’t any words to describe it. It’s outstanding. Their level is of excellence in all aspects, in dancing and costumes, and everything is just beyond what you’d imagine.”
Shen Yun will play in Toronto Jan. 3–7; Montreal Jan. 11–14; Quebec City Jan. 16–17; Mississauga Jan. 19–23; Hamilton Jan. 25–26, and Kitchener Jan. 27–28.