Through Shen Yun, Photographer Finds ‘Divine Beauty’ in Chinese Culture
VANCOUVER—Taking in Shen Yun Performing Arts and its exhilarating dance performances, stunning backdrops, and beautiful colours moved professional photographer Eugenia Filippova to tears.
“The traditional dances took me away completely. It’s so emotion-filled, and it’s so elegant and beautiful, and made me cry. And the singing was absolutely beautiful too, gave me chills,” said Ms. Filippova, who caught the last performance of the New York-based classical Chinese dance and music company at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m a visual person, and for me all the colours and the way the women move and how they dance, and the emotion on their face, and the accents of their outfits and just the overall visual performance for me is a key,” Ms. Filippova added.
Shen Yun has a mission to revive China’s divinely inspired culture. Many of the dance pieces in Shen Yun’s presentations carry a storyline, from ancient stories and legends to plot lines from present-day China, all performed masterfully using classical Chinese dance, an ancient and very expressive dance form.
Other dance pieces in Shen Yun feature folk and ethnic dances from different parts or ethnicities of China. All dances are accompanied by the Shen Yun Orchestra, which combines traditional Chinese instruments with classical Western instruments.
“The cultural aspect of it—I was never aware of so much culture, and it’s just an explosion of experience,” Ms. Filippova said about Shen Yun.
Shen Yun artists put in a tremendous amount of effort each year preparing completely new programming, including new dance performances, original scores, animated backdrops, and costumes, among other aspects.
Ms. Filippova said she was “blown away” by the hundreds of colourful handmade costumes used in Shen Yun.
“I loved the costumes, the way the fabrics flow, the colours, the little sparkle of accessories, and it’s just absolutely stunning, I loved every bit of it,” she said.
Through Shen Yun, Ms. Filippova said, she could see the beauty of Chinese culture.
“Lots of feminine aspects, lots of beauty, lots of authentic emotion that’s usually hidden and /or misrepresented in my world. So for me it’s a divine beauty that I’m discovering that I was never aware of.”
For Andy Ngae, who accompanied Ms. Filippova to the performance, Shen Yun was a very educational experience.
“Very informative. I’m learning a lot about Chinese culture,” said Mr. Ngae, who owns a coffee business.
“There have been a lot of interesting dances that I’m seeing, that’s new to me, that I haven’t seen before, and also I’m learning about some of the stories, the mythology, that I didn’t know about.”
He enjoyed the dance performances, and similar to Ms. Filippova, Mr. Ngae said he had “chills” when the Shen Yun vocalists performed. Shen Yun’s award-winning singers use the bel-canto style to sing Chinese lyrics.
“I liked the musical aspect there, and also the synchronicity and the beauty, the visual beauty, and all of the colours. The mix of all of the dancing and the synchronicity of the movement of the performers, it’s really touching.”
Mr. Ngae enjoyed the combination of classical Western and Chinese instruments as well, and commended the masterful blending of the two.
“They blend it very well, and I find it’s a very good complement—it complements well especially with the visual effects and the screen, and the background, it all mixes very well.”
Reporting by Ryan Moffatt