Interview: Jin Xing

By Zoey Zha, April 22, 2014

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Since starting as a child dancer in the Shenyang People’s Liberation Army, Jin Xing has blazed a trail as one of China’s most famous ballet and contemporary dancers. While her status as one of China’s first recognized transsexuals following her 1995 surgery tends to get all the attention, Jin’s brilliant career continues. Her Jin Xing Dance Studio will present original shows Trinity and Shanghai Tango at Shanghai Grand Theatre on April 22 and 23, while her new talk show debuts on Zhejiang TV this month.

Details are scarce, but expect it to be feisty. Jin famously told Crazy English founder Li Yang “You’re an exceedingly filthy and selfish man” on live TV in 2011 and exhorted a contestant on Let’s Shake It to “never dance again.” Despite all the projects, Jin enjoys a comfortable life with her husband and three children, and admits, “I’m a bit spoiled with all these great things.”

Where did your interest in dance start?
I was watching The White-Haired Girl and wasn’t paying any attention until the lead female Xi’er started to dance. The movements were just beautiful. I thought – this is it! I’m a Leo so I love being in the spotlight.

Were there any times you wanted to quit?
It’s common to think about quitting every time you’re in pain but it passes. I knew I was destined to be a dancer and was willing to pay the price. Don’t ever dream that fame and fortune will come without a cost.

When you won your first Tao Li Cup, you took a peek behind the curtain before results were announced. Why?
I was curious about the process. To me, any behind-the-scenes plotting is simply intolerable. I saw one judge lower my score to help someone else. While it didn’t affect the final result, I confronted him after. He tried to make up reasons but I wasn’t fooled. As much as I respected him, I had to tell him to stick to the rules. What can I say? That’s just who I am.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve done to become a better dancer?
How heartless do I have to be? Didn’t I change my gender for that? But yes, I always give myself a hard time to strive to a higher level. Rumors that I’m cruel to my dancers are confusing. While I can be quite harsh, it’s never heartless. Deep inside, I’m a soft person.

You went abroad to study contemporary dance which was new and unknown in China. Why?
It was a fascinating new dance and I thought, “why not try?” I was young and didn’t have much to lose, so, if I failed, I could always be a backup dancer. I only think about the yin (the cause) and never obsess about the guo (consequence). 

Were you bothered by the media attention after your surgery?
Why should I? I come from Venus [her name means Venus in English]. Where I’m from, we just live our own lives. Even my 11-year-old son found it boring. My parents paid no attention either. Some people are too judgmental. I would appreciate more fresh critiques of my choreography, but otherwise, I just can’t bother with these people.

Your left leg was paralyzed during the surgery. Is it fully recovered now?
It can never fully recover but it won’t affect my performances. I always joke that I’m a standby back-up dancer at the studio.

What do you look for in a dancer?
Sincerity. They should have some basic training in dance techniques, too. However, I once recruited a 32-year-old mom who ran a cyber café but dreamed of being a dancer. She came to the studio after seeing me on TV and touched me with the love and care she expressed in her performance. That’s something you can’t fake, no matter how skilled you are. After training with us, she performed a year later.

What do you look for when you’re a judge on TV dancing shows?
All participants should try to amaze me. I’m still the 17-year-old straightforward lad that plays by the rules. Their offstage drama doesn’t interest me. But on-stage moments mean everything. 

You’ve also dabbled in film and dramas. What does that experience mean to you?
I consider myself lucky. Drama roles allow me to perform on stage and improve my speaking, which is important for the April talk show. While I didn’t study broadcasting, I’ve always dreamed about having this talk show. It seems my mouth has been zipped for 30 years as a dancer and now is the right time to be heard. 

// Jin Xing Dance Studio presents Trinity (Apr 22) and Shanghai Tango (Apr 23), 7.15pm, RMB80-680. Shanghai Grand Theatre, 300 Renmin Da Dao, by Huangpi Bei Lu 人民大道300号, 近黄陂北路 (6386 8686, www.shgtheatre.com)

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