27 June 2018
Author: The Place and Jiemin Yang

Meet The Dancer: Jiemin Yang

We spoke to EDGE dancer Jiemin Yang.

Jiemin is a dancer, choreographer, and graphic designer/illustrator from Queens, New York. He discovered his passion for dance in college and graduated summa cum laude from Macaulay Honors College at Queens College with a double major in dance and graphic design.

You are touring the UK and internationally with 19 dates in 6 countries, what are you most looking forward to about this?

I am looking forward to experiencing different cultures in different areas and countries. I am quite a foodie, and I am very interested in tasting exotic foods. It's exhilarating to share the works with lots of people which we have been working on for months. I am also excited to experience the typical touring life as a performer, traveling from city to city. 

How do the different cultures in the company (Costa Rica, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Taiwan, USA and the UK) come together? In which ways do you inspire each other?

We often discuss food, language, and culture with each other during lunchtime. We share information about dance scenes in our own city/country. Every Friday morning we have an early meeting, and we make each other breakfast from our own culture, which I love a lot. I just feel so happy to experience how different cultures make their own unique food! 

We all have quite different dance training background as well. Each person brings something unique. And what we brought inspired how the choreographers shaped their piece set on us. So only 14 people in the world know how to perform these unique 4 pieces!

You are working with four contrasting choreographers, what are the different ways of working and how do you adapt to each?

During the process with Philippe Blanchard, we improvise throughout the rehearsals. He wanted us to explore so deeply into our body’s sensation. I quite liked it because I was more used to improvising - it had unlimited possibilities. Sometimes my body surprised me when I felt something I had never felt before.

With Tamsin Fitzgerald, we had to maintain specific characteristics as “evaporated people". It was quite challenging for me because I am not very used to this type of work. Everything has to be very specific, such as the looks, postures, gestures, and timing. It took me a long time to adapt. I had to repeat the movements and ask others to help me get them right. I found it the most challenging out of the 4 pieces.

As for Ben Wright, he asked us to do a range of improvisation tasks before he composed the piece. Ben often threw in new and unfamiliar ideas/tasks, and my brain was resistant to them for a while. Sometimes it was confusing and challenging for me because, for example, we had to revamp a series of movements and make it a totally different quality, or we had to rearrange our movements and mix them with those from the others. After a while, I found the best way to help myself learn and create is to surrender to what is new and embrace it, and to make these ideas/tasks as some fun games. By the end of the process, it was inspiring to see how he put together all the raw, complex and distinctive materials together.

When it came to Athina Valha, it was as if she was making an unpredictable installation with 14 totally different materials. She was very attentive to the differences in the dancers. She picked up the different special skills from us and utilized them to compose the piece. People’s specialties were all being used such as Rugby, singing, handstands, martial arts and so on. Since the piece appeared theatrical, the nuances in our intentions and the relationship to each other are critical. I was more used to dancing within my own mental zone, but in this piece I particularly need to relate to other people.

What can audiences expect from the mixed bill?

The mixed bill is really diverse, and the audiences are going to taste four completely different works. Philippe and Athina’s works might be the ones with the most unconventional flavours, and they will certainly bring people new perspectives to dance. Ben and Tamsin’s works might taste familiar yet contain richness in surprises, which will bring you otherworldly experiences.

What do you hope to learn and achieve throughout the tour?

All the theatres are going to be different. I think the most useful skills to gain are to be able to adapt to each venue quickly and to sort out unfamiliar situations with the team members efficiently. They will come very handy for our future career in dance. Audience support makes our career alive. I want to be better at engaging the audience and become more confident in my teaching skills.   

What has the process taught you about yourself so far?

It is hard to summarize it all. I have discovered so much about myself by learning from other people. What comes first is the body. I realized there were so many bad habits in the old ways that I danced. Training with different teachers has helped me realize what I need to work on. By dancing so much, it also helped me realize that I miss creation, and there is a big part of me wants to create work.

You will finish your tour with a residency in Portugal, teaching and developing new works with 150 young people aged 3 - 25 years, from the region. In which ways do you hope do develop from this collaborative experience?

It is a big sharing! It will be a very good opportunity for me to work on my leadership and teaching skills. I do not have much experience in teaching, and I want to be an articulate and motivating teacher who can bring students a great experience with dance.

One of your performances in Portugal is dedicated to works created by yourselves, how does this add to your experience?

It is certainly a blessing that we can present our own work in Portugal. I have always wanted to be a choreographer. It will be amazing to share my own idea with people in a country that I have never been to.

How do you feel being a member of EDGE has helped to prepare you for professional life?

EDGE gave me the opportunities to work with different professional choreographers and experience each unique creative process. These experiences allow me to see what my strengths and weakness' are, so that I know what kind of works suit me better and what I can work on to improve myself. It also taught me about how important the details are in performance. Every gaze, gesture, or intention is critical to create a quality performance. The rehearsal process also helped me to be better at working with fellow dancers, our rehearsal director, and other supportive staff.

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