Shen Yun Performing Arts: Touring Light

At home and across five continents, China's premier dance and music company Shen Yun performs green and travels green.

Shen Yun Performing Arts, the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company, is now in its tenth season. Shen Yun has four companies, with some 90 performers each, that tour over 100 cities around the world every year. But its carbon footprint is limited to only one truck of freight per group.

At Shen Yun, being green-minded means using projection technology to replace and outdo hefty traditional set designs. It means making all props lightweight and deconstructable. It even means company wide meetings about water and energy switch off policies, and zero waste policies at home and abroad.

The Green Screen

“Having a show that solely uses projection as set and background generation means that we can travel light,” said Shen Yun Production Manager Mark Abbot. “We can set a stage and perform the same day.”

Instead of scores of trucks filled with traditional sets, Shen Yun packs the entire show into a single vehicle.

Speedy set up and load out also slashes energy use, such as heating and powering a theatre. Meanwhile, omitting a physical set saves consumption of construction materials that end up being used for only a few months.

“Still, we don’t feel like we lose anything because the animated backdrops achieve the same effect, or more, of putting the audience right there on the scene,” said Abbot.

Shen Yun’s state-of-the-art graphics technology allows for instantaneous teleportation transporting both dancers and the audience to another time and place, from a heavenly paradise to a deep-sea palace, or from snowcapped mountains to lush and boundless grasslands.

Shen Yun Performing Arts

Customsised and Compact

Yet, with 400 plus costumes, accompanying accessories and props, not to mention production equipment and instruments for a full orchestra, how does it all fit?

Every year, Shen Yun produces a brand new set of programmes. And from the beginning of each production period, designers strive to make everything as light and portable as possible. Before setting out, everything is weighed, measured, and fitted into customised containers and luggage for efficient freighting.

Travelling Carbon Light

Shen Yun’s four companies split the global tour into sections by geography. The company uses aviation for transoceanic voyages, but all intra-continental travel is by road a significantly lower-emission transport option.

Along the tour circuit, Shen Yun employs local staff to provide services such as stage set up and catering. This reduces the company’s entourage, keeping the number of those travelling to a minimum.

Evergreen

When Shen Yun comes home, all props, costumes, and equipment are systematised and stored onsite for reuse and repurpose. Nothing is landfilled, meaning no methane emissions either.

Before storage, costumes are hand washed and line dried. This is their first bathing, as on tour too they are never drycleaned or machine washed (eco-unfriendly options) but steam cleaned when necessary. Multiplying thousands of costumes by the over 400 shows Shen Yun performs each season, that’s a lot of energy, detergent, and water not going down the drain!

Image: Shen Yun Performing Arts

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