VANCOUVER—With its presentation of 5,000 years of history compressed into two hours of entertainment and cultural education, Shen Yun Performing Arts leaves Canada a little richer once again.
The New York-based group played its final show in Vancouver on April 3, winding up the western leg of its Canadian tour which also included shows in Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Throughout Shen Yun’s four-show run at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the audience burst into spontaneous applause during several of the pieces, including Plum Blossom, Ladies of the Tang Palace, and Herding on the Grasslands.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful,” said Christopher Meyer, Honorary Consul for South Africa, after seeing the show in Vancouver on April 2.
Celebrated First Nations artist William Nahanee was also captivated by Shen Yun. “They touch the heart; not only the heart, they touch the spirit,” he said.
Retired pastor Suzanne Cowles and her daughter Sarah, a former dancer, attended the performance in Edmonton in late March.
“I’m thinking that if there were more of this kind of thing, then maybe there wouldn’t need to be such animosity in the world,” said Ms. Cowles.
Her daughter called the show “an excellent representation of the human spirit. Beauty and poetry in motion.”
Shen Yun tours the world each year, showcasing a collection of performance pieces inspired by the Middle Kingdom’s long and rich history. The group’s mission is to revive and bring to the world the traditional Chinese art forms and values, most of which have been suppressed by communist policies and campaigns, such as Mao Zedong’s Great Cultural Revolution.
The Shen Yun Performing Arts Orchestra combines two of the world’s great classical music traditions—Chinese and Western. With Western instruments as its base, the orchestra brings out Chinese musical flair through a variety of classical Chinese instruments.
“I thought the orchestra played superbly. It was a wonderful blend of sonorities and absolutely went with the dance routines. It was really very tight,” noted orchestral musician and organ professor Neil Cockburn, who attended the show in Calgary.
Professional violinist and violin teacher Yuel Yawney shared a similar impression. “How the music and the dance worked so well together, it’s beautiful,” he said.
The primary feature of Shen Yun is Classical Chinese dance, which carries the essence of Chinese cultural expression in its movements, postures, and aesthetics. In its early years, it was passed down primarily in the imperial court and as part of ancient theatre.
“I’ve never seen any show in the last 10 years that has such a strength of youth,” said Kim Huynh, professor of art at the University of Calgary, referring to the Shen Yun dancers.
“I expect that all of these young people have many years of training in Chinese classical art. I think the craft, the technique, is so solid.”
Calgary MLA Paul Hinman called the performance, “a beacon for the rest of the world.”
“To think that this is thousands of years of culture that’s been passed on with these traditions and we’re able to see it today,” he said.
Each year, Shen Yun produces an all-new program of dances, songs, and musical scores and takes it to audiences around the world.
When arts supporter Vivian Coverdale emerged from the theatre after the Vancouver show, she remarked: “I can’t imagine how they’re going to beat that next year.”