Audience members who loved their Shen Yun experience no longer need to wait an entire year for Shen Yun to return. A robust streaming platform has now opened up a world of positivity, wholesomeness, and artistic beauty—and made it available on demand.
The online platform, launched in 2021, is called Shen Yun Zuo Pin, which roughly translates as “Shen Yun’s creations.” It now features over 600 videos and counting, including past favorite dance performances from Shen Yun’s archives, never-before-seen dance stories, Symphony Orchestra recordings and concertos, all-original Shen Yun mini-operas, instructional videos and masterclasses, behind-the-scenes programs, movie shorts, vocal music, interviews, and highlight videos with Shen Yun’s stars.
For years audience members have been clamoring for DVDs, saying they wish there was more they could see and take home with them. This hub for all things Shen Yun is the answer to that, with content for a wide range of viewers, from avid fans and arts aficionados to children and aspiring dancers, singers, and musicians.
The three most popular videos so far, judging by views, are the original opera “The Stratagem,” the fast-paced dance techniques showcase, and the dance mini-drama “Dragon Gate Lodge.”
Recorded in the fall of 2022, “The Stratagem” is a groundbreaking Shen Yun original opera. Set during the waning days of the Han Dynasty, it tells of a beauty trap brilliantly employed to get rid of a tyrant.
“This is nothing like the Peking opera that people would usually associate with traditional Chinese singing,” says Rachael Yu Ming Bastick, who starred in the principal role of Diao Chan. “The Shen Yun opera is very straightforward and each character is portrayed very clearly. The music, lyrics, script, costumes, backdrop, everything is completely original, just like our annual Shen Yun show.”
“What makes the opera so enjoyable to watch,” she says, “is the fact that it’s so informative and so much is incorporated into it at once—acting, singing, and music. It is such a unique way for the audience to learn and understand a story directly.”
While geared toward a more intellectual audience, “The Stratagem” has proved to be a hit with the young crowd, too. One father recently shared that his 4-year-old son has watched it so many times he has it memorized.
“As parents, we’re always trying to find quality content for our kids to watch,” the father wrote. “Here we have a safe platform where we know they are getting something that’s good for them and learning and enjoying themselves at the same time. We can’t thank you enough!”
Another of the top-three videos on Shen Yun Zuo Pin is the techniques showcase from 2021. It is 15 minutes of nonstop breathtaking aerials, flips, spins, jumps, and layouts. These showcase videos, of which there are several, are so motivating it is very difficult to watch them and not want to immediately get up and do something.
In another series of videos, “The Technical Moves of Classical Chinese Dance,” Shen Yun’s principal dancers introduce these techniques one at a time, breaking down how they are trained and what it takes to perform them well. This series allows non-dancers to understand and speak the language of classical Chinese dance.
And there is so much more for those who love dance—recordings of the annual dance exams at Fei Tian College and Fei Tian Academy of the Arts, where Shen Yun’s performers are trained, dance competition videos, and a series of foundational training routines. And Shen Yun star Angelia Wang has her own video channel there, aptly named “Angelia on Dance,” in which she takes a deep dive into the intricacies of classical Chinese dance and life as a professional.
Dance Stories to Binge On
“Dragon Gate Lodge” is an example of some of the lighter content one finds on Shen Yun Zuo Pin. It is a mini-dance drama created for a Mid-Autumn Festival Celebration that humorously tells the story of an episode in Chinese history. Set during the Northern Wei Dynasty, it demonstrates the Buddhist monks’ power of faith, a story enhanced via the powers of special effects and slapstick.
New videos are constantly being uploaded, but in the ones already available one can watch dance props come to life, a new black-and-white rendition of Charlie Chaplin, and a wide array of ethnic and folk dances, including Slovakia, Flamenco, and even Finish Elves.
Other video shorts include dance offs, and an entire library of behind-the-scenes footage courtesy of the “Three Musketeers.” Shen Yun dancers William Li, Sam Pu, and Jisung Kim have published dozens of episodes with topics ranging from “How Shen Yun dancers are perfectly synchronized” to “Weird habits dancers have” to “A day in the life of a Shen Yun dancer.”
“Many people have seen Shen Yun dancers on stage, but few people know what their lives are like off-stage,” says Musketeer Sam Pu. “Our channel offers this inside view into our lives. And it fits in nicely with Shen Yun Zuo Pin in general, because this platform offers exclusive classical Chinese dance and Shen Yun music content that can’t be found anywhere else on the web.”
And what are his favorite videos to watch? “I really enjoy watching the early Shen Yun pieces. These are the pieces that actually inspired me to start dancing when I saw them in the theater and, up until two years ago, they were so exclusive you wouldn’t have had access to them no matter how much money you paid.”
Long-time fans will recall how Shen Yun premieres an all-new production every year. Once tour is over, all the stories and dances were gone—and gone forever. But Shen Yun’s artistic team were diligent in recording every production along the way, and now these too have been made public.
Among the 103 “Early Shen Yun Pieces” one finds favorites such as “Monk Ji Gong Abducts the Bride” (2009), “Wu Song Battles the Tiger” (2010), “Plum Blossom” (2011), and “Tang Imperial Drummers” (2014).
The musical collection, with both original works and classical masterpieces performed by Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, is yet another cornerstone of the streaming platform.
“The key to the programming is its diversity, because of the contrast of the different musical pieces, different emotions being conveyed and the different messages for the audience,” says longtime Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra Conductor Milen Nachev. “We have not only our own monumental compositions created especially for the repertoire of Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra, but also masterpieces by Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Berlioz, Dvorak, and so on.”
Concertos are performed by an impressive roster of Shen Yun’s talented young musicians like Nika Zhang, Rachel Chen, Catherine Zhang, Davin Ma, and others.
“On the one hand, the platform has entertainment, which includes video recordings of our dance program, Symphony Orchestra, short films, etc.,” says Nachev. “And on the other hand you have the educational aspect, including interviews, masterclasses, and dance training. It is wonderfully rich.”
To learn more, visit: www.shenyuncreations.com.
Leeshai Lemish is an MC with Shen Yun Performing Arts and has been with the company since 2006.