Artist Profile: Ms. Lin-Jieh Huang
Her long indigo skirt, adorned with peacock tail eyes, spread like wings as Lin-Jieh Huang leapt into a split in the air for her solo. It seemed that the beauty of her grace could elude gravity. Ms. Huang paused in midair like a sculpture of an elegant peacock in flight.
Choreographers and photographers have said that they like to pick her for such poses, praising her ability to resemble a work of still art, even during a jump.
“When I’m dancing, I don’t think of it as a technique that I have to do next,” Ms. Huang said. “You are coordinating your body as a whole, rather than a specific muscle.”
“This is how you create a perfect pose in one jump,” she said.
Although Ms. Huang has a petite frame, she jumps with so much strength that her airborne splits surpass 180 degrees.
Ms. Huang tours across the world when performing in practicum with Shen Yun Performing Arts, a classical Chinese dance company based in New York.
Shen Yun was founded in 2006, by overseas Chinese artists who saw a need to revive traditional Chinese culture.
Ms. Huang said that Shen Yun is unique because it embraces the vestiges of a heritage that had been lost in China.
The Cultural Revolution destroyed much of China’s 5,000 years of ancient culture.
Even today, it is difficult to find an authentic Chinese performance, that is, one not tainted with Chinese Communist Party propaganda.
Ms. Huang was born in Taichung, Taiwan. “I grew up watching many different Chinese dance groups, but I never really came across authentic Chinese culture in dance, not even in Taiwan,” she said. “Taiwan is focused a lot more on modern dance these days.”
Shen Yun is the only company reviving traditional Chinese culture, as well as celebrating China’s plethora of ethnic minority groups.
One of Ms. Huang’s favorite dances is Shen Yun’s Bai ethnic dance, “A Legacy of Grace,” where she also has a solo. Choreographers have said she is wonderful at capturing the spirit of the Bai.
The Bai people are one of China’s oldest ethnic groups. They live mostly in Southwest China, in the Dali region of Yunnan Province.
The Bai dance “has a distinct flavor,” she said. “It’s lively, but it’s a different kind of liveliness than the Tibetan ethnic dance.”
Dressed in a white costume and wearing an embroidered hat, Ms. Huang performs intricate footwork in front of a scenic backdrop of pagodas.
The dance celebrates the particular elegance of the Bai people, using their unique movements that highlight arm waving and complicated footwork.
One aspect of classical Chinese dance focuses on highly difficult technical movements, such as complex variations of flips, jumps, and leaps.
In the dance “Ancient Elegance,” Ms. Huang performs aerials, or cartwheels that do not require hands, while wearing long silk sleeves. She has precise control over the angle that the sleeves flow so that she does not trip over them when she lands.
She is chosen for the solos because she has masterful control over her flips, jumps, and leaps. Choreographers have said that Ms. Huang is known for her ability to make flips look graceful and light.
“It’s all in the speed of your kick,” Ms. Huang said. “It can’t be too abrupt or too slow. There is a balance.”
Another one of Ms. Huang’s favorite performances is her solo in the handkerchief dance.
In the dance piece, “Early Spring,” dancers twirl white and green handkerchiefs to evoke the annual change of seasons in a northeastern style folk dance.
The dancers spin sequined handkerchiefs, in addition to complicated moves such as rolling the handkerchiefs across their necks to pass them from one hand to another.
It’s not easy, but Ms. Huang can do it with her eyes closed.
“I don’t think of it as a technique that I have to do at a certain point in the dance, or at a certain part of the music,” she said. “I feel it as the next movement in a beautiful dance.”
“If you focus on the beauty of the dance, the moves become one, they are connected,” she said. “Even the most complicated moves are natural.”