Monday, January 11, 2010

Shen Yun

I went to see the Shen Yun Chinese performing arts company on Sunday evening with my friend Jackie. We hit the Royal Treasure restaurant before hand and had a spectacular meal of szechuan Chinese vegetables and szechuan scallops ... awesome.

The NAC was really crowded seeming this time round ... strange, since Mama Mia! had been sold out too. Yet this place was rocking.

The program was a mixture of skits and dance numbers with incredible lighting and costumes, and individual performances with a Steinway grand piano and a couple of sopranos and a tenor. Very nice.

I had what I thought were decent seats ... row FF, and since BB is the first possible row, I assumed that we were in row 5. But when we got there, we saw that we were in the second row, because the first three rows had been removed to create an orchestra pit. Shen Yun travels with their own small orchestra with a mixture of western and Chinese instruments.

The first thing you notice is that every scene has a background, a huge projected scene which is an integral part of the show. Many time, we see great beings descend from the heavens and arrive on Earth. They accomplish that trick by having a stair stepped platform running across the back of the stage, behind which people can assemble and ascend gracefully to the stage. It works surprisingly well.

The whole thing is very spiritual, perhaps for several reasons. Clearly, some of the old legends and stories were crafted that way, as they are in any culture. But also quite clearly, these companies are created and run by western Chinese and perhaps some ex-pats, so the theme is very much lamenting what China has become under the totalitarian regime. The skits and images can be quite sad at times, but the overall feeling I got was somewhat uplifting.

As I mentioned earlier, the costumes were quite stunning. The women especially. Long flowing dresses with extremely ornate jewelry. Photography was *strictly prohibited*, and being in the second row, I felt very self-conscious so only got a few images at the very end, and they are not great because I had to sneak them. *sigh*

I would have *loved* to shoot the opening number ... they allows the smoke machine to fill the stage to a depth of about 2 or 3 feet while the curtains remain closed and the group positions themselves in the mist. It looks amazing with the bright lighting, and at times there were women sitting in the mists up to their chests, looking like disembodied heads. It was marvelous to see.

The best I could do was to capture a few images as they were taking their bows and waving goodbye.

A close up of one woman saying goodbye ...

Another ... this woman was one of the stars I think. At the front and center of many formations.

Most of the company assembles ...

And a quick peek into the pit. I shot with flash, but was barely able to see anything on this image, which is heavily processed ...


slappo said...

Hi Kim

I could not read the text for this blog entry in Google Reader as it was white/grey on white background. I don' know if everyone have the same problem.

Most (all?) of your blog entries usually show up fine (black on white).


(Yes I have a calibrated monitor :-)

Kim Letkeman said...

I've switched to Chrome and have found that it handles fonts really poorly ... ironic, since Google owns both. Firefox has real issues with key strokes under Windows 7 and IE has its own issues. I no longer have a reliable way to create blog entries with any of the big 3, so I'll have to look further afield I suppose. Sorry about that and thanks for warning me.