My Career Choice: Miaotian Sun – Dancer and Choreographer

Miaotian Sun is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and culture communicator. Her dance journey began in China at four years old with Chinese folk and Classical Dance. She quickly fell in love with the medium, and pursued a dance major at NYU in 2014 where she was first introduced to western dance styles. Miaotian continued her dance education in New York City, and recently received her Masters Degree from NYU. Currently, she is further refining her artistry through training with the Peridance company while simultaneously teaching dance independently. 

Miaotian suffered injuries in her early 20s that physically debilitated her, and through that experience she answered the question of how a dancer who has physical limitations can still be fully expressive in their craft. She challenged herself, and through that challenge, discovered her unique choreography style that revels in breaking boundaries, blending various dance forms, with a distinct emphasis on infusing Chinese dance elements with various Western styles. 

Her current work entitled Garden of Eden is co-choreographed by fellow Chinese dance colleague Xinyi Zhang and was specifically created for the Spark Theater Festival. Garden of Eden draws inspiration from Chinese female dancers pre-1949, and their struggle through gender oppression and subordination as artists and as people. This piece aims to highlight the gender aggression that all women experience to this day, and encourages the audience to reflect on their own experience regardless of their preferred pronouns.

Miaotian Sun’s personal mission goes beyond choreography. She is a culture communicator, using dance as a conduit to facilitate global cultural exchange. Her vision for the future is to organize international dance festivals that connect artists from around the world. These festivals will serve as platforms for artists from diverse backgrounds to share, learn, and grow together, creating a tapestry of artistic expression that transcends borders. 

Can you point to an event that triggered your interest in your career?

I began learning dance from the age of four. It was a transformative moment at eight when my mother took me to see the ballet “Swan Lake,” and I was captivated by how the ballet dancers danced on their toes. I watched as dancers effortlessly pirouetted on the tips of their toes, defying gravity with every graceful movement. This spectacle ignited my curiosity. Also, after watching Yang Liping’s solo dance “Spirit of the Peacock,” I fell deeply in love with dancing and aspired to create beautiful dances as she did. Her artistry transcended the physical, and her choreography is from her village’s folkloric dance traditions and her attention to the natural world. Her dance was the rich feast of sight and sound.

What about this career choice did you find appealing?

I found the dual role of being a dancer and a choreographer particularly appealing. Through movement, I discovered a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. It allows me to convey emotions, stories, and ideas in a way that resonates deeply with audiences. Moreover, the creative process of choreography empowers me to craft narratives and evoke emotions, offering a unique form of artistic expression. The dynamic nature of this profession, where each performance is a canvas to paint a new story, continues to inspire and fuel my passion for dance.

What steps did you take to begin your education or training?

I started my dance education at the age of four, focusing on both Chinese classical dance and Chinese folk dance. I actively participated in provincial and national-level competitions. In high school, I attended the “Dance China” summer intensive program in Beijing. During my time at Indiana University of Bloomington, I minored in dance. Additionally, I obtained Grade 1-12 teacher qualification certificated by The Chinese Folk Dance Grade Test Center and The Institute of China Art Education, Classical Ballet (Pre, Primary, Grade 1) teacher qualification certified by The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing, Theatrical & Performing Arts (Pre, A, B) teacher qualification certified by The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing. I was also honored to be elected to the Expert Committee certified by the China Association for Promoting Children’s and Art in 2022. After completing my undergraduate studies, I pursued a major in dance education at NYU, and post-graduation, I continued my independent training program at Peridance. This year, I also participated in summer intensives with the principal dancers including Chun Wai Chan and Jovani Furlan of New York City Ballet, as well as Xin Ying, principal dancer from Martha Graham Dance Company. In September, I achieved the Certification in Progression Ballet Progressing Techquine Level 1.

Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?

Initially, my parents were hesitant about my career choice in dance. They were concerned about the potential age limitations and perceived limitations compared to professions like finance, computer science, or law. However, as they saw my increasing passion and dedication to dance, and witnessed the time and effort I invested, they came to realize my genuine love for it. Gradually, they shifted from discouragement to becoming my biggest supporters and encouragers. Also, I met lots of teachers and peers who recognized my passion and talent, offering invaluable guidance and encouragement. Their belief in me has been instrumental in overcoming challenges and reaffirming my path in the world of dance.

Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?

consider myself fortunate to have always known what I love – dance. While I’ve explored various types of work in different fields, I never once considered giving up on dance. It has been a constant and unwavering passion in my life, and I have never doubted my choice. I acknowledge the inherent limitations in a dance career. However, I see my background as diverse, relishing challenges. As a dancer and choreographer, I believe in weaving dance into various domains like technology, education, tourism, and culture. This broader perspective expands my reach and enables me to touch more lives. It’s a way to make a meaningful impact, bridging worlds through the art of movement.

When did your career reach a tipping point?

My career reached a tipping point in 2021 when I founded my dance studio in China. Witnessing my student got first place in a provincial competition with a piece I choreographed was a defining moment. It signaled not only my expertise as a dance teacher but also ignited a newfound confidence in my choreographic abilities. Beyond instructing, I realized the potential to explore and innovate in the realm of choreography. This experience fueled my passion for creative expression and affirmed that my impact could extend beyond the studio walls.

Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?

During my high school years, I faced a significant challenge when I suffered a severe injury to my waist. This injury also had an impact on my spine, leading to a period of over five years where I couldn’t engage in extensive stretching or practice most dance techniques. For a dancer, this was an incredibly difficult situation to navigate. It tested my resilience and determination to continue pursuing my passion despite the physical limitations. I focused on rehabilitation and sought alternative ways to stay connected to dance, such as studying theory and choreography.

What single skill has proven to be most useful?

I think the most important skill is the ability to keep learning, not just for physical training, but to continue to keep the mind growing. The definition and values of dance are undergoing a profound change. Today’s “dance” is no longer a closed and isolated field of art, it is a comprehensive art just like the movie. When engaging in the dance industry in the pursuit of innovation at the same time, practitioners need to always maintain the growth of thinking and expression of the internalization of the behavior of externalization. If dancers can get out of the inner circle of “dance” and get in touch with the knowledge of many fields such as literature, film, architecture, physics, etc., and understand the development and change of the society, and feel the diversity of other people’s lives, then “dance” may really become the way we understand and experience the world.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I take immense pride in the recognition of my choreographic and performance work, “La Mia Gioiosa Possessione del Mondo,” which earned a nomination in the semi-finals of the 21st Rome Dance Awards in June 2023. Crafting this piece was a labor of love, fusing artistic expression with a profound narrative. The acknowledgment from such a prestigious platform not only validates my creative vision but also highlights the impact of dance as a universal language. This accomplishment fuels my dedication to pushing artistic boundaries and contributing meaningfully to the dance community on a global scale.

Any advice for others entering your profession?

My advice for aspiring dancers and choreographers is to embrace both passion and perseverance. Dance is a journey that demands not only technical skill but a deep love that fuels your every step. Develop an unyielding love for the art, as it will sustain you through challenges. Be open to continuous learning, exploring diverse forms of expression beyond dance, and never shy away from innovation. Lastly, understand that success in dance goes beyond individual achievement; it’s about contributing to the collective beauty and evolution of this art form.

All Photos Courtesy of Miaotian Sun

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