Review by Terry Gaisin
“Knee How” or, translated from the Mandarin – hello; and to all our readers, a ‘Happy & healthy year of the horse!’
It’s been six years since we first had the opportunity to witness the incredible talents of China’s minority spiritual discipline. The Falun Dafa’s revival of a 5,000-year old artistic archetype though it’s amazing performance group – SHEN YUN. Impacting back in 2008, Shen Yun 2014 is even more impressive and flawless in execution and audience amazement
This year’s Canadian tour opened last evening at the Great Hall of Hamilton Place. The acoustics and enormous stage are a perfect setting for such a large company. Classical Chinese Dance basically incorporates highly synchronized and rather outsized chorus numbers defining ancient legends and folklore. Shen Yun’s terpsichoreans are so focused and harmonized as to be a target benchmark for such groups as N.Y’s ‘Radio City Rockettes™’ or the USMC drill team!
From the misty opening number – the Deities Grand Descent with its 14 drummers sounding like but-one, and its evocative theme reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001-Space Odyssey; the impact and mind-boggling choreography of each number is only enhanced by the effect of the projected backdrops. We were astounded by the solo dancer’s non-usage of ‘spotting’ as they pirouetted. Not a falter or mis-step anywhere. Speaking of the backdrop; the transitions from live on-stage activity to projected virtual reality is seamless and unified. Stage sets and costume changes flow smoothly; obfuscated via the explanations of each program entry by the male host in English and female elucidating in Mandarin. The costumes: – aah those costumes… immediately evoke the traditional outfits worn by serving staff at Cynthia’s (renowned Mandarin-style restaurant at Neyagawa & Dundas in Oakville).
The urge to applaud becomes an epidemic of appreciation but be forewarned; Shen Yun has numerous false-endings. So future patrons – wait for the curtain to start dropping! Another caveat; many of the story/dances are politicized, ranging from the subtle to the outright blatant. Tenor Tian Ge’s solo poem certainly reflects the latter as does ‘The Steadfast Lotus’ which depicts the present Communist Government’s Storm-trooper-like treatment of the Falun Gong adherents. Even the Tibetan struggle is ingeniously mirrored in the costuming of chorus members stage-rear.
Like most non-Orientals with a fondness for Chinese cuisine, chopsticks are something of a hassle. The last offering before break – the Manchurian Chopstick number demonstrates how these utensils are for more than just picking up rice and pineapple chicken; they’re also a musical accoutrement much like the melodic spoons ubiquitous to rural Quebec.
The politicizing may be a little heavy-handed, but the visual & tonal impression is so overpowering that one’s aesthetic senses are positively bombarded. China traditionally calls itself the ‘Divine Kingdom’; SHIN YUN’s new presentation perfectly reflects the designation. Future performances are in Kitchener; 14-15th; Mississauga 16-19th; Toronto Jan 23rd to 26th. Then – Stateside. Don’t miss any of these venues.