The show that has been wowing millions around the world with its engaging portrayal of traditional Chinese culture and values is returning to Toronto this week.
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts will play five shows at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Jan. 23 – 26. Each year on its international tour, Shen Yun stops in 100 cities on 5 continents.
When Shen Yun began the Canadian leg of its tour on Dec. 29, greeting letters arrived from several federal government officials, such as Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, and Health Minister Rona Ambrose.
For the Toronto shows, Hon. Joe Oliver, MP for Eglington-Lawrence, also sent greetings, as well as several MPPs and the mayors of both Mississauga and Richmond Hill.
“My wife and I have had the opportunity of enjoying the lavish and breathtaking productions several times over the last few years,” wrote MPP Michael Prue.
“The level of talent is extraordinary and the athletic prowess of the dancers literally takes your breath away. We have learned much of Chinese history and culture through the music and dance.”
Shen Yun has already played at several venues in Ontario and Québec, delighting audiences with its lavish production. Alongside long-cherished legends told through classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun showcases folk and ethnic dances presenting China’s rich diversity—all to the music of a live orchestra.
Lata Pada, one of Canada’s foremost experts in South Asian dance, was deeply impressed after seeing Shen Yun for the first time on Jan. 17 at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga.
“It was really magnificent. It was such an incredibly rich and vibrant performance,” she said. “There’s so much variety that nothing was predictable and nothing got monotonous. Every piece was so different. The audience really enjoyed it.”
Ms. Pada, who has won numerous accolades and awards, is the artistic director and principal choreographer of Sampradaya Dance Creations and the principal teacher at Sampradaya Dance Academy. She is also an adjunct professor in the Master’s Program of Dance at York University.
“I saw that there was a huge amount of physicality in it,” she said, complimenting the jumps and flips that are the most technical movements of classical Chinese dance. These movements were later adopted by other disciplines, becoming what people know today as gymnastics and acrobatics.
“The technique of Chinese classical dance is also very unique because it has this very light lifting of the body and yet very dynamic acrobatic body movements—very beautiful.”
‘Completely blown away’
Shen Yun also made a big impression on TV talk show co-host Shannon Rose, who has worked in the media for 25 years.
“It is so beautiful—the movement, the music, the solos, the piano. It was just unbelievable. I am completely blown away by it. This is not what I had expected,” she said.
Nelson Teixeira, who is enjoying his semi-retired years after building Able Transport, one of North America’s top transport companies specializing 24/7 wheelchair accessible services, said the presentation demonstrates the beauty of the Middle Kingdom’s 5,000-year culture.
“It’s an old culture and it’s beautiful,” he said.
“[Shen Yun] represents the old background of China, all the values of China at that time, the old time. It’s nice for the new generation to see what’s going on because this, I think, is going to have an impact on the world.”
Award-winning tenor Tian Ge drew high praise from Chicago-based singer and actress Kat Taylor, who performs cabaret and musical theatre, and has played lead roles in national tours of musicals such as Phantom of the Opera and Martin Guerre.
“[He] was, I would have to say, one of the best tenors I ever heard in my life. He has a truly exceptional voice,” she said. “I could feel his heart. He was really giving his full heart too. He is really compassionate.”
Shen Yun’s operatic performances sung in bel canto style with Chinese lyrics require arduous training and have been mastered by few in the world, according to the New York-based company’s website.
Justice of the Peace John MacDonald, a court administrator in both Ontario and Nova Scotia who is also a frequent arts patron, gave Shen Yun a top grade.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 this is definitely a 10,” he said. “I think it’s just beautiful.”