This year, the world’s Chinese population celebrates the Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year is a traditional national holiday in China, where celebrations run from New Year’s Eve (the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar) to the 15th day of the first month, when the Lantern Festival takes place. Toronto is a very diverse city, housing many different cultures and backgrounds. The arts provide a way of expressing one’s culture – through colour, music, dance and song – and the Chinese New Year Carnival 2013 does just that.
Presented by Legend of China Productions, the Chinese New Year Carnival 2013 bringing forth an amazing group of performers – from acrobats to dancers – to present audiences the various different cultures and traditions of China. Each and every performance is done live in front of 42-members of the 80-member China Broadcasting Traditional Orchestra, a major Chinese orchestra based in Beijing. Live music, live performances and absolutely stunning visuals make this an experience you’ll never forget. The event took place on February 16th, 2013, and is organized & hosted by the Canada-China Cultural Development Association (CCCDA).
Beyond The Art
The beauty of this production is not the fact that the company has put together a show of great performances, but rather created a neat way of presenting Chinese culture and history. With screens on each side of the stage, each performance is given a backgrounder. From the significance of the story to the instruments used, audiences are able to not only feel the performance but also understand them. It’s very difficult for a person not of the culture to understand the importance of any piece and by providing the necessary background information, a person not of the culture can also express the same emotions and respect shown by those of the culture.
Applicable all round, musical instruments vary from culture to culture. You have the sitar in Indian classical music, the shamisen in Japanese music, and so forth. The same way, this show presents a range of musical instruments that are present in Chinese culture. The erhu, for instance, is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument that resembles the western violin. As mentioned before, each performance is given a backgrounder. Within these backgrounders, audiences are educated on the instruments used in each piece to help better understand how each musical instrument captures the emotions and melody of each individual piece. With over 30 types of traditional and modernized Chinese instruments used in the production, learning more about them just makes the experience that much more rewarding and memorable.
The presentation of a culture cannot be done if the talent isn’t there, and oh boy, does this group have talent. The 42 members of the China Broadcasting Traditional Orchestra provide clear, in-sync music throughout the entire production. Mastering multiple different instruments, balancing tone of each performance with the level of music and really demonstrating energy throughout, this orchestra lives each and every musical performance. Looking at each member on the stage, you can see the focus and dedication that translates right into their performances. It’s no wonder they are considered one of the three best Chinese folk music orchestras in the world.
As beautiful as the orchestra is, the individuals performers trump every level of “epicness”. In the 1 1/2 hour show, what you are presented with is a showcase of delicate, finely tuned art that simply boggles the mind. The dancers, for instance, perform with such beauty and poise that you are simply in aw for the majority of each performance. Facial expressions dictate the mood of the performance, the intensity of each step dictates the energy, and the lights and music just highlight it all. When performing traditional pieces with more than one dancer, they are all in sync; from the twirls to fine steps, the dance just flows. Yuan Zhu and the other dance members are just beautiful to watch. One of the most beautiful pieces has to be Jasmine Blossom, with music by Bai Haoyu and choreography by Yuan Jia. The delicacy of the dance can literally be measured!
Shifting away from dance, you have the various acrobatic performances. Zhou Tian, an acrobat born into a family of acrobats, performs Diabolo – a traditional Chinese folk acrobat movement – to a T. The blend of his own choreography with his own flare leaves audiences in aw and holding their breath; A talented young man who shows the highest level of showmanship. Even a minute error could not stop him from putting on a good show. However, if there is someone who literally took your breath away, that has to be Wei Wei and her contortion performance. This is perfect to have within a show celebrating the Year of the Snake, and her performance produces gasps, ah’s and what have you from all over the auditorium. Flexibility, to put it frankly, is redefined after this performance.
Beautiful Mix of Colour & Design
The show presents a beautiful array of colours that are significant in Chinese culture. From the ever-so-present red to the world renowned China blue, the show uses colours in each and every performance to create a visually stunning scene on stage. Each dancer’s costume is colourful and beautiful and even the dresses worn by singers and musicians just capture one’s eye.
The one moment where colour is taken above and beyond is during the magic show, performed by Wei Yi and Wei Guo. Butterfly Lovers is a fascinating love story that is often compared to Romeo and Juliet. This classic love story has been reconstructed by Wei Yi into a beautiful, live, magic show. Each trick presents the performers in beautiful clothing indicative of Chinese culture. From beautiful yellows, greens and reds, noticing every change is just a wonder to the eyes and a really entertaining experience. This along with the beautiful set just makes it one of the highlights of the entire show.
A Culture-Focused Visual Treat
The Chinese New Year Carnival 2013 is a blend of talent, colour and music that brings forth the many cultures of China, to celebrate the wonderful occasion of Chinese New Year. Whether you are a part of that culture or not, this show will be a beautiful, educational adventure, taking audiences through each element and object of Chinese culture and providing an enlightening experience.
We sure hope the show returns to Toronto next year. To keep in the loop, make sure to visit Legend of China Productions at legendofchina.net
Photo Credit: Hugh Photo (Li Haitao)
The show tours across Canada on the following dates:
Toronto – Sat February 16, 2013
Kitchener – Mon February 18, 2013
Ottawa – Wed February 20, 2013
Sherbrooke – Thu February 21, 2013
Montreal – Sun February 24, 2013
Quebec City – Wed February 27, 2013
Edmonton – Sat Mar 2, 2013