Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Unusual steps

Lin Wen-chung’s path to a career as a choreographer has been anything but conventional

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

"Utah offered us both scholarships," Lin said, referring to his then-girlfriend and now wife, a dancer with the Jose Limon Company.

He chose choreography as a major, but was still thinking about dancing himself.

He danced with the Repertory Dance Theater (the oldest dance repertory in the US) while he was in Utah part-time for six months and full-time for another six.

"It was good for a pre-professional," he said. "They dance a lot of styles.

So how did he end up spending six years with the Jones/Zane company? Lin was still in school in Utah when he first had the chance to see the troupe in action.

"I went to ADF [American Dance Festival] in 1999 … . Bill's company was performing there. Bill watched some classes … , he didn't make any promises," Lin said. "At Christmas, I went to NYC [New York City] to rehearse [with the troupe] ... see how the company fits me and what Bill could do for me."

"After a month I went back to Utah and I e-mailed Janet [Wong, the company's associate artistic director] to ask about a job. She offered a paid apprenticeship. I rehearsed with the company for one week but then I went to audition for Dance Works Rotterdam and got a job offer from them. I told Bill I wanted to go, but he hired me … , added me [to the company] even though he had 10 dancers already," Lin said.

Lin said he has no regrets about not going to Rotterdam, about choosing to stay in New York with the Jones/Zane company, although he admitted that his life would probably have ended up completely different - as well as his dance style.

"Every artist dreams of living in New York for a couple of years, to strive there, to see how you compete with the top artists. It's a must-go place, I think," he said.

"As a dancer, Bill really encourages personal voice … . For people who grew up in Asia that is a big difference with their tradition," he said. "My own choreography changed because of my time with Bill."

"[The question of] how to find movement has become more free. Most Taiwanese choreographers just use their training, their techniques - Martha Graham, Jose Limon, classical Chinese - to make movement. The way Bill defines movement is more intuitive than creative," Lin said. "He took me to another level."

"He has his own distinctive vocabulary, which influenced me a lot, but now I'm trying to get rid of that," Lin said as he started to laugh.

"You are always trying to find your own stuff. It will take me a while to get to another level," Lin said. "Modern dance is about thought, not about technique. If there is too much focus on technique then you lose the reason for dance."

If there was one thing the past six years with Jones/Zane company has taught him, it is the importance of staying true to yourself, to your passion; the importance of knowing who you are. For Lin, that meant learning to define what it meant to be a dancer, to be Taiwanese. Jones/Zane puts a lot of stress on roots.

Lin stayed in touch with his Taiwanese roots and Taiwan's dance scene while in the US. He has tried to come home every year for two months to see family and friends, as well as perform. He and his wife performed one of his pieces for the Duets program at the Experimental Theater at the National Theater this past spring, for example.

Now he is ready to spread his wings and build a career as a choreographer back home. His last performance with Jones/Zane company was this past week, in Iowa City, Iowa, in Blind Date, the show the company performed at the National Theater. Then it is back to Taipei to put the finishing touches on his new piece for Ping Hang's (平珩) Dance Forum Taipei's production Blink, which will be performed in Taipei on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 at the Novel Hall.

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