A Cooksploratrice and the Producer Ballet Review
Setting: Driving back home in a Hyundai Sonata 2013
Menu: Lindt Dark Chocolate
Producer Drink: Eska Bottled water
Cooksploratrice Drink: Eska Bottled water
Background noise: ongoing traffic, cars honking, the purr of the engine
Date: Saturday, January 05, 2013
Moderator Question: Why Shen Yun?
P: Cooksploratrice came back from China and since she was travelling for work, we did not share this trip together. This was a way for us to share the Chinese experience. Cooksploratrice also enjoys ballet very much. She had just concluded a huge project, a culmination of 2 years of work. A qualification with the Chinese Aviation authority (CAAC) for a helicopter simulator. It was the first certification of a helicopter simulator in China. She’d worked so hard and she needed a treat.
C: When I was in Zhuhai, I went to this place called the Lost City. The Lost City is a replica of a temple that was destroyed in a war. There’s supposed to be a show from the time of the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty ruled from 1644 to 1912. I visited the site but was never able to find the show for some odd reason (the signs are not in English). I had been cheated out of a Chinese cultural experience so when I got this gift as a Christmas present, I was ecstatic.
Moderator Question: What is the story behind this ballet?
P: It’s a ballet that takes bits and pieces from 5000 years of Chinese history. There’s an introductory narration, in Mandarin-French and English, before each number. We see traditional dances of Chinese ethnic backgrounds and typical dances representative of dynasties.
C: China is a very wide land, with different landscapes, weathers and also ethnic backgrounds. Wikipedia states that there are 18 major ethnic backgrounds in China: “The major minority ethnic groups are Zhuang (16.1 million), Manchu (10.6 million), Hui (9.8 million), Miao (8.9 million), Uyghur (8.3 million), Tujia (8 million), Yi (7.7 million), Mongol (5.8 million), Tibetan (5.4 million), Buyei (2.9 million), Dong (2.9 million), Yao (2.6 million), Korean (1.9 million), Bai (1.8 million), Hani (1.4 million), Kazakh (1.2 million), Li (1.2 million), and Dai (1.1 million).” There are also some 20 odd dynasties throughout Chinese History. To say that China is a culturally rich country is an understatement.
P: The story is not really linear. It’s like a Chinese culture sampler. Every year, they put on a show and they never quite show the same numbers.
Moderator Question: Let’s discuss the stage
P: The decor is provided by a very large screen which displays temples and landscapes to fit with the stories. The screen did help contribute to make everything seem larger however. When the image was static, I got a very positive vibe. When the image displayed was dynamic, I had less of a positive feeling. I’ll discuss that later.
C: The ballet costumes were in synch with the large screen.
P: I did not like the animations they would sometimes display on the screen. It cheapened the production.
C: I agree, the animations were very amateurish and very badly done.
Moderator Question: What types of animations?
P:Dancers flying into the sky (while they physically leap off the stage) or flying down from the sky (while they jump onto the sky)
C: These events were not synchronized enough. It was not seamless. This was very off putting as it removed some realism from it.
Moderator Question: Tell me about the costumes?
C: The costumes were gorgeous and helped bring the ballet to life. The scarves made their arms seem that much longer and graceful.
- Outfit from one of the numbers we saw at Shen Yun 2013.
- P: the costumes gave the impression the dancers were lighter than air
Moderator Question: Is the fact they seemed lighter than air not a result of their dancing?
C: The dancers, men and women, were technically flawless. They were elegant, graceful and they made everything seem easy. The level of difficulty of traditional Chinese dance is greater than with ballet. Madeline Lobjois, a dancer with the troupe, had this to say about the form of dance:
“So, to be a classical Chinese dancer, you need to acquire a broad range of movements and techniques. If, say, you’re good at jumping, but you’re not good at doing flips, then you’re not really a complete dancer.And mastering a technique goes beyond just completing the move—you have to really be able to control the movements from beginning to end. For example, say you do the splits in the air. You have to get your split to 180 degrees, your feet must be in exactly the right position, and you need to have good hang time. Every aspect is important for it to really be a dance movement” http://www.shenyunperformingarts.org/news/_fGMchv7CIcQ/dancer-interview-french-chinese-star-finds-east-west-harmony.html
P: It seems to the layman, like a combination of gymnastics and dance. It’s very pretty to see but also, for a guy, more dynamic than a regular classical ballet.
Moderator Question: Tell me about the music
P: There was an actual orchestra with a mixture of oriental and occidental instruments.
Moderator question: What about your seats? Were they any good? C: We were in the balcony and I find the balcony perfectly suitable for large scale ballets from a visual standpoint. We were in seats 36 and 38 B which is in the second row of the balcony right dab in the middle. Our viewing angle was perfect.
P: The acoustics were not perfect from our seats however. We did not get to enjoy the Soprano and tenors that sang a few numbers. But, there’s no disputing the arithmetic. If you get less expensive seats, you get to do more of these outings and therefore keep cooksploratrice happy.
C: We’re going to see an opera for my birthday next. I can’t wait, it should be awesome.
Moderator Question: What was your favorite moment in the show? C: I loved the Mongolian Bowl Dance. They pirouette all over the stage with a bowl on their heads.
P: I loved Dancing for the Gods. It was a very athletic and rhythmic Tibetan dance by male dancers to the pounding of drums.
Moderator Question: Were there any surprises?
C: There were lots of references to the Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) which is a religion that the Chinese are prevented from practicing. I’ve seen banners that were pro and con falun gong in Hong Kong during my travels but the Shen Yun Performing Arts Troupe definitely takes this persecution seriously. They made the show a little too political for my taste.
P: I felt that the show was on the same musical tone. It was pretty even through out. I expected more bursts of energy and more variety.
Moderator Question: Globally, is it a show to see or not to see?
C: You have to see this show at least once in your life.
P: I saw the show in 2013, I loved in but I would move on to traditional dance of another culture.
Moderator Question: Have you two seen more traditional dance shows?
C: We saw Lord of the Dance.
Moderator Question: When is the Shen Yun Performing Arts troup performing next?
C: There is a show tomorrow, January 13 in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theater
P: There are shows in Toronto from January 17 to 20th, 2013 and then on to Raleigh North Carolina January 19-20th, 2013
Moderator Question: What’s your overall appreciation of the movie?
C: 3.5 Stars. It was a mixture of genres.
P: 3.5 stars.
Moderator Question: How’s your chocolate bar?
P: It would taste even better with a glass of cold milk.