Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

‘A new breath of life’: Shen Yun’s Opening Night at Lincoln Center Met With Resounding Acclaim

Alina Wang
A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights, politics, tech, and society.
Published: April 4, 2024
Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company — aiming to revive 5,000 years of traditional culture and values through immersive performances. (Image: Lisa Fan/Vision Times)

NEW YORK, New York — On April 3, Shen Yun kicked off its highly anticipated 14-show run at the city’s prestigious Lincoln Center. Nearly all tickers were sold out, and theatergoers lucky enough to secure seats raved about the show’s vibrant dancing, choreography, gravity-defying acrobatics, and immersive digital backdrops, among other highlights.

Founded in 2006, Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music company. The company, which is based in New York, aims to revive 5,000 years of traditional culture and values through immersive performances to showcase what China was like before communism. 

Shen Yun Performing Arts is the world’s premier classical Chinese dance and music performance, bringing to life 5,000 years of traditional Chinese culture and heritage to audiences across the globe. (Image: Shen Yun Performing Arts)

Made up of a large ensemble of elite artists comprising more than 500 dancers, musicians, and vocalists, Shen Yun currently has eight equally-sized companies that tour and perform across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Oceania simultaneously. The company puts on a brand new production each year.

‘Truly exquisite’

Maria McDonald, a former model and actress, attended the performance with her friend Bill Underwood. McDonald, who’s also the CEO and founder of “Cover Girls for Change,” shared with reporters that the performance was “deeply moving” and “truly exquisite.” 

She added, “It was deeply moving — the spiritual aspect of it being based on true stories, the martyrdom, the parents being taken away, and the persecution — it was incredible to see. Some of the children being actual witnesses to the events that happened to their parents was really moving.”

Maria McDonald, a former model and actress, attended Shen Yun’s opening performance at Lincoln Center with her friend Bill Underwood on April 3, 2024. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

Shen Yun’s performances aim not only to entertain; they also educate audiences on important social and political issues taking place in China today. The performances aim to raise awareness on human rights’ issues to provide a unique perspective on the human spirit and the importance of not taking certain freedoms for granted. 

One of the storylines the show touches upon is the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. 

Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice from ancient China that combines meditation exercises with a moral philosophy based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance (真善忍). Many of Shen Yun’s performers are children of Falun Gong practitioners, or practice the discipline themselves. 

Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners meditate through body movements to mark the 10th anniversary of the practice being outlawed in China on July 17, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Image: TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)

After becoming widely popular in China in the 1990s — with millions of people, including high-ranking government officials taking up the practice — the communist authorities launched a brutal persecution campaign to eradicate the practice in July 1999. 


‘A new breath of life’

Shen Yun’s performances, which are complemented by a live orchestra that combine classical Chinese and Western instruments, take audiences on a spellbinding journey through time and space.

“I loved the opera singing and the dancing; the costumes; the sleeve dresses — it was all amazing, moving, and spiritual,” said McDonald. 

When asked about whether she would recommend Shen Yun to family and friends, McDonald said, “The performance was very timely for the whole world [to see] to be able to understand the realities of what this is all about. To put into art form all these spiritual and artistic elements along with the singing and dancing on such a high level was exquisite — truly exquisite.”

(Image: Screenshot / YouTube)

She further added, “The show was really divine, and you can really feel the spirituality behind it. I feel really calm and at peace after seeing the show — it was wonderful and gave me a new breath of life.”

‘Everything was remarkable’

“I’ve been waiting to see Shen Yun for a while now — and it was magnificent,” said Bill Underwood, who attended the show at the request of his friend Maria. 

When asked about what aspect of the performance stood out to him the most, Underwood said, “The dancers were truly wonderful and everything was remarkable. The fluidity of their movements, the grace and beauty, and [witnessing] thousands of years of Chinese history was amazing.” 

“I’m sad about the oppression that’s going on in China,” said Underwood, adding, “But the spirit and the training that the dancers undergo is incredible. The historical perspective, music, and the fluidity of the dancing was so beautiful. It was truly moving and spiritual.”

‘Really special’

Sane Twilo, a designer and entrepreneur, attended the performance alongside his family. He told reporters that the show was “beautiful” and “really special.”

“I loved the digital effects and how the screen effects showed the performers transitioning in and out of the live action — it was beautiful.”

One of the defining features of Shen Yun performances is its use of high-tech digital backdrops. The backdrops are synchronized with the live performers to create an illusion of seamless transitions between different scenes and locations. This helps to transport the audience to a world of ancient China full of vibrant landscapes, ancient legends, and awe-inspiring landmarks.

Nia Pelaez (L), who works in property management, Zeke Correa (center), and Sane Twilo (R), a designer and entrepreneur, attended Shen Yun’s opening performance at Lincoln Center on April 3, 2024. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

When asked about what he enjoyed the most, Twilo said, “The piece with the female dancers using the silk sleeves and garments incorporated into the dancing was so beautiful. The artistry and the message that was given in each one of the performances was really special.”

“Kindness is so overlooked in our society lately so thank you for approaching us,” added Nia Pelaez, who attended the performance alongside Sane and her son Zeke. 

‘Surpassed all our expectations’

Delcio and Lillian Torres, who hail from Sao Paulo, Brazil, attended Shen Yun’s performance for the first time after waiting years to see it.

“This was our first time coming to a Shen Yun performance and we loved it,” said Delcio, adding, “We had high expectations because China is so renowned with dance and music, but it surpassed all our expectations. I really enjoyed it.”

Delcio (R) and Lillian Torres (L), a software designer and public relations representative, attended Shen Yun’s opening performance at Lincoln Center on April 3, 2024. (Image: Vision Times Staff)

Delcio, who works as a software engineer, said he particularly liked the female dancers’ water sleeves combined with the stage’s digital features. “We loved the orange female dancers with the water sleeves and with the lightning and effects — it was so beautiful and amazing to see.”

When asked about what inspired them the most, the pair said, “The performance really inspired us because it showed us traditional culture, and beautiful values that we’re not used to seeing in our society today.”

“Values like compassion, friendship, family, love, trust, and surrender — surrendering to a higher power,” said Lillian in her native Portuguese as her husband translated. 

“We would absolutely recommend the show, it was amazing,” the pair added. 

Shen Yun will perform at Lincoln Center through April 14. For tickets, availability, and other FAQs, visit the official website here.

With reporting by Anna Lin and Susan Lu, Vision Times Staff