Shen Yun: A Heavenly Experience for Mississauga, Canada, Audience Members (Photos)
(Clearwisdon.net) Shen Yun’s five-show run at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Canada, from January 19-22 evoked thunderous applause and lavish praise from audience members.
Shen Yun’s five-show run at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Canada from January 19-22
Diplomat discovers China’s heart in Shen Yun
Mr. Phillips, a diplomat stationed in Canada from a Caribbean country, said Shen Yun opened his eyes to China's ethnic diversity and true spiritual heritage.
Mr. Phillips, a diplomat posted to Canada from a Caribbean country, said that Shen Yun was “beautiful.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed it. It gives a completely different picture of China and the rich culture that this nation possesses. And what is also interesting is the spiritual overtones that comes through with each performance; very rich, very powerful, very interesting,” he said.
“I see a strong belief in God, in the creator, and in the fact that he is really in charge of whatever is happening and he determines the end. He’s in charge of the last events, and deliverance will come for mankind.”
He continued, “It tells me, therefore, that the Chinese have had a strong heritage of belief in a divine being who is creator and also the controller of the universe.
“I will recommend this performance to anyone. It gives a better understanding of Chinese culture and of the Chinese nation as a whole. … It’s really unfortunate that these performances cannot be performed in China.”
While the forms of Chinese dance are being staged in China, the connotations originally invoked by this art form are absent, notes Shen Yun’s website.
“Today, on the surface, the Chinese Communist Party claims to be reviving traditional Chinese culture. But no matter how its efforts are framed, they are ineffectual. For the Chinese Communist Party removes the cultural essence of respect for the divine, thereby extracting the heart and soul of traditional Chinese culture. Shen Yun seeks to revive these virtues the world over,” it reads.
For Mr. Phillips, Shen Yun was not only an introduction to true Chinese culture, but also a reminder of the deeper meaning of life.
“In spite of what the world is going through at this time, which seems to be economic gloom and natural calamities, there is hope because God is in charge, which gives you courage to face the future knowing that the future is not left to man’s imaginations or man’s doings, but to the workings of a divine being.”
China’s diverse ethnicities
Mr. Phillips commented on the different Chinese ethnicities presented in the show, saying that they were an eye-opening and memorable experience for him.
“Sometimes one gets the impression that all China is one, but there are different groups that possess their own unique culture, which contributes to the rich nature of the country.
“I will recommend this show for anyone who wants to understand Chinese culture better—the wide diversity and the hugeness of this nation.”
Beyond the subject of the dances, he was also impressed with the caliber of the performance.
“I think it was excellent. I’m certainly impressed, as I said, with the discipline, the professionalism, and the kind of perfection that goes into it. I’m impressed and I enjoyed it,” he said.
“The orchestra was wonderful. I think the music and the performances were just in perfect harmony. And the variety of instruments, you know it was just impressive that everything was so harmonized.
“The costumes were very colorful. Quite a lot of thought, imagination, and creativity, went into the production of those costumes. There was a costume for just about every performance which I think was quite impressive and it must have demanded quite a lot of creativity to do that,” noted Mr. Phillips.
“The show is great, it is a wonderful performance. It really demonstrates great discipline and everything was performed with grace.”
Actress and ballerina: Shen Yun is an ‘amazing experience’
Actress and ballet dancer Brittany Bristow (left); her father, Leif (right); and mother, writer Agnes Bristow (center), attended the Shen Yun Performing Arts on Sunday Jan. 22.
Actress and classically trained ballet dancer Brittany Bristow attended the Shen Yun show to get a deeper appreciation for the artists’ talent, and for the challenging techniques in classical Chinese dance.
“I just appreciate it so much because I know how much precision it takes, how much practice, and just how difficult it is. I’m a classically trained ballet dancer, but I can’t imagine studying [classical] Chinese dance. It's remarkable,” she said.
‘They’re just phenomenal dancers’
“There’s a beautiful power to the men and women in the troupe. They’re just phenomenal dancers.”
Ms. Bristow, who sees the show every year, attended Shen Yun with her father, Leif, and mother, screenwriter Agnes Bristow. She said it’s obvious the Shen Yun performers have a deep passion and commitment to their craft.
“I was lucky this time. I got to sit very close and you feel how much those dancers love what they do, and how much they love sharing their story,” she said.
“It's just beautiful to watch, they’re so passionate and expressive.”
Ms. Bristow chose to see the show for a second time because of the diversity of ideas and themes presented through the dances and costuming.
“I think a lot of why it’s so enjoyable is how colorful it is. There’s so many different types of dance within it. There’s the happier dances and the sad, and the dances explaining some of Chinese history and the fairytales,” she said.
“I love the costuming, I think it’s absolutely stunning. The colors are brilliant. It’s not very often that you get to see such extravagant costuming in a performance and it’s beautiful. I loved all of them.”
One dance that stood out for her was a dance called “Snowflakes Welcoming Spring.”
In this folk dance, the performers use sequined handkerchief “snowflakes” as continuously-twirling props to capture the mood of a season’s transition.
“I loved the snowflakes—that was a beautiful, beautiful piece. I loved the handwork and the intricate handwork of the snowflakes themselves. I was sort of captivated trying to figure out how they were doing everything. That was beautiful.”
“Its an amazing experience and a beautiful display of artwork. It was a wonderful gift,” she concluded.
Soprano ‘blown away from the moment the curtain rose’
After seeing the acclaimed classical Chinese dance and music production on Friday night at the Living Arts Centre, soprano and vocal teacher Adria McCulloch was deeply moved.
When soprano and vocal teacher Adria McCulloch was given a ticket by one of her students to see the Shen Yun Performing show, she had no idea what to expect.
But after seeing the acclaimed classical Chinese dance and music production, she was deeply moved.
“Absolutely loved it,” said Ms. McCulloch.
“I was just blown away from the moment the curtain rose. The costumes are just breathtaking, the dancing is just phenomenal, and the singing and the music was just so beautiful, and it was really, really emotionally moving.”
Ms. McCulloch teaches in Toronto, holds a Master of Music degree, and has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Regina Philharmonic Chorus, and Cowtown Opera. After hearing the vocal soloists of Shen Yun, Ms. McCulloch had a burst of warm praise to give.
‘They use incredible technique, that’s opera’
“They use incredible technique, that’s opera, it’s a really authentic vibration that comes from the core, and they obviously believed in what they were singing, and their connection to the text was especially powerful and moving and just really created a lovely overall shape. It was beautiful,” she said.
The singers perform original compositions in the Chinese Mandarin language using the bel canto operatic singing technique, grasping its highly difficult technical requirements while retaining the proper Chinese articulation and diction.
Although the lyrics are displayed in Chinese with English translation on the backdrop, she said that was not important for her.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even watching the lyrics, because I didn’t need to, because they emote so well with their vocal color and their performance … To be honest, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them, so I didn’t need to look at the translation.”
She said she believes she understood the songs even without knowing the language.
“I think they were trying to emote a beauty from within—a beauty and a truth—and that it comes from a divine light.”
In its spiritual core, Chinese culture embraces the values of benevolence, honor, propriety, wisdom, sincerity, and a deep reverence for the gods and the heavens, something that strongly resonated with Ms. McCulloch.
“I think it’s really important to have that connection, and I think that music and the fine arts especially are sort of the highest form of praise for that type of emotion, for that type of feeling,” she said.
She added, “In saying that fine art is the highest art form for praising that type of feeling, I believe that the voice is the direct link to the emotional center and their authenticity in performing with their voices, I was just blown away. It was beautiful.”
Ms. McCulloch was also fascinated by the Shen Yun Orchestra, a unique fusion with a Western philharmonic orchestra.
“They’re incredible. They’re just incredible,” she said of the musicians. “It was really beautiful. I loved hearing the unison strings, the European strings, and then I loved the color that the traditional Chinese instruments added to that. They blend, yet they don’t blend, but it’s really interesting!”
Exciting energy of the colors
Commenting on the costumes of the dancers, Ms. McCulloch expressed how impressed she was by the brilliant colors and designs.
“I think [the colors] really added to the drama on stage because it was almost very jovial … It was really fun. It was really exciting energy that it brought,” she said.
“The colors were incredible,” she added. “A few times there I thought my retinas were going to explode in my head, and the color choices were just so tasteful and interesting. They were beautiful.”
She also took special notice of the “water sleeves” used in classical Chinese dance and “how [the dancers] incorporated their costumes into the dance moves, like an extension of their arms.”
The sleeves linger in the air after a movement is finished, producing a trailing-ripples or fluttering-wings effect.
It was Ms. McCulloch’s first time seeing classical Chinese dance, and its rich expressive power stood out for her, especially the lovely postures and hand gestures of the dancers.
“It’s beautiful. I watched their hands … their hands are just so beautiful and I can see that there were different postures that they were using, and I saw them repeated throughout,” she said. “I’m really excited to learn more about that, specifically what their positions mean. It was just so fluid.”
A hallmark of Shen Yun is its mini-drama pieces inspired by stories and legends that span Chinese history from the Yellow Emperor through the Tang and Song dynasties up to the modern day.
Some of the story-based dances tell of the persecution of the practitioners of the Falun Dafa spiritual faith by the communist regime in contemporary China.
Those were the pieces that spoke to Ms. McCulloch the most.
“Overall, the pieces that I enjoyed the most were the pieces of religious persecution. I thought that they were particularly authentic and really tragic and moving and I just, I can’t believe it … I really will take that away with me,” she said.
‘Spectacular, breathtaking, just beautiful, pure magic’
She said the dancers and other performers showed conviction and shared something everyone could identify with in their hopes to an end to spiritual suppression.
“It’s really important for everyone to come together and identify that and witness that and talk about it, and express that, and try to change that,” she said.
“Spectacular, breathtaking, just beautiful, pure magic,” said Ms. McCulloch.
Writer: ‘I always enjoy traditional Chinese culture’
Also in the audience was writer Agnes Bristow, a big fan of traditional culture.
“I thought the costumes were phenomenal,” she said.
“I thought the pacing of it was very good. I love the choreography, it has such a nice, gentle flow to everything, and I like the graphics,” Mrs. Bristow said after the performance.
“I think it’s very professional,” added Mrs. Bristow, who has seen Shen Yun several times and attended Sunday’s performance with her husband, Leif Bristow, a film producer and director, and their daughter, Brittany, an actress and dancer.
“I always enjoy the traditional Chinese culture. It’s really nice—it’s really refreshing to see that. I always, always enjoy it, and this year, actually, many family members came out to see it as well and they really enjoyed it.”
Mrs. Bristow co-wrote Blizzard, a 2003 movie starring Christopher Plummer, Whoopi Goldberg, and her daughter, Brittany.
She was particularly impressed by Shen Yun’s unique animated backdrops that often act as an extension of the pieces being played out on stage.
“I think it really adds so much character to the show, because you get more of a fuller picture of what’s going on.
“With the characters in the background and the way it transforms, like with the Monkey King you’ve got the mountain and the stone, and it just progressively comes, reaching out to the audience, and by the time it gets to the stage you see the real-life character emerge from that and I thought that was quite brilliantly done,” she said.
Shen Yun endeavors to renew the ancient Chinese heritage through dance and music that is true to the culture’s deep spiritual essence with its values of compassion, propriety, wisdom, honor, and reverence for the gods and the heavens.
“I always find it fascinating, the whole concept of good and evil and the contradictions between those two forces, and I think the show depicts the good triumphing over the evil forces that compromise us and interfere with our ability to have happiness in our lives,” said Mrs. Bristow.
“I think that certainly is the message I get from the show, that if you have purity in your heart and your spirit and in the way you conduct life, that you will triumph in the end. That’s what I get from it and I think that’s a good message.”
She concluded, “I think it’s wonderful, really enjoyed it, so I’m really glad we came.”
Chinese supermarket owner: ‘The most exhilarating performance ever!’
Mr. Lin, a large supermarket owner, attended the show with his wife.
“From the beginning to the end of this performance, I felt inspired and perfectly at peace. I've watched many movies and TV shows in my life, but none can compare to what I saw today” he enthused.
“This show is like a breath of fresh air, I'm really excited.
“The dancing was like a crystal, clear spring water, making me feel thoroughly refreshed; the music, it was as if I was listening to it in a heavenly palace; the backdrop was even more natural than watching three-dimensional movies, the scenery and landscape were very real; and the historical stories, it seems like I’ve known them before, but today is the first time that I understand their inner meaning.”
“China's 5,000 years of traditional culture is worthwhile for us to pass on, carry on, and promote. I'm proud to be Chinese!”