Welcome ChingI Chang to Bird in the World Blog! Her credits include opening cast of Sleep No More, NYC, and opening cast/rehearsal assistant to the Sleep No More, Shanghai. ChingI and I met while studying undergraduate dance at the University of Utah in 2005. Her quiet strength and peaceful demeanor always impressed me. After college she left for NYC where her career soared. In this interview, we have a glimpse into the unique mindset of a dancer who carved a niche in the Post-Modern dance world. Thank you so much for sharing, ChingI Chang!
Ok, let’s start with the basics, what age did you start to dance and after how many years of serious training were you offered your first job or professional opportunity?
CC: I started dancing when I was in my mom’s belly. After university, I was offered my first job. However, before that I took every performance and teaching opportunity professionally.
Dancer from the stars! Can you remember roughly how many auditions you went to? Did you have to take many rejections?
CC: Too many. I went to every audition when I first moved to NYC because I was curious about how people and the city functioned. I received so many rejections at the beginning, but good things came out of the failures. As time went on, I became friends with some of the people who I kept running into during auditions and became more familiar with my own sense of belongings. I tried to accept every job offer at first. Reason one is I really had no choice. I was an immigrant and needed to build up my resume’ experiences. The process of applying for Artist Visa (O-1 visa) in the States, required tons of professional experience to gain the visa. Another reason I accepted a wide variety of paid and unpaid work is, I wanted to put myself into many different scenarios so that I can get to know myself more- of how I transformed and flowed in different settings.
Amazing and would you say your first job was your dream job?
CC: Every single dance work was my dream even when sometimes the work is not challenging. I let the experience inform my growth.
If you cast your mind back, was there any point when you thought you might not make it as a dancer?
Of all the triumphs and successes in your career, can you pinpoint a “break-out” moment? Maybe a performance where everything seemed to change after that?
CC: One vivid break-out moment was during performing my thesis work where I was channeling my Taiwanese ancestors’ spirit and trauma. My sense of existence and art-making entirely changed after that making and performing experience.
Can you describe that moment for us? Did you know it was a defining career moment at the time?
CC: After that channeling ancestry time, I saw my role as an artist differently. I carry not only a responsibility to myself but a lineage of family’s blood, sweat, tears, and history; as well as what it means to be a Taiwanese female artist.
Absolutely. So are there any personal mantras or habits you could share that helped you to stay motivated through the tough times before you achieved success?
CC: If I decide to do one thing, I have to do it to the best capacity that I can with my whole heart and soul; or else, why do it.
Of course, so when did you finally feel secure and confident in your career as a performer? What contributed to those feelings of assurity?
CC: I knew that I wanted to perform since senior in high school. I went to an extremely strict performing arts high school where we had to train, perform, and tour. I made up my mind during those years that I needed to dedicate myself to the performing arts.
And what would you say has been the high point of your career so far?
CC: To understand the concept of empathy as a human being.
On the flip side, can you tell us about at least one MAJOR set back in your early career?
CC: I have the ability to see things as encouragement and I can’t quite recall major set back.
Using just 3 words, describe the life of a professional dancer:
CC: Ocean, transformation, and love.
Nice. What’s the one thing you are most proud of?
CC: Nothing in particular.
What was necessary for you, personally, to achieve your career in dance?
CC: To understand humanity a little.
The dance world is constantly changing as we know. What have you noticed has changed in dance in the last 5 to 10 years?
CC: I appreciate how there is more awareness on social justice and critical race works.
Do you think there are more challenges facing dancers today? Are these challenges different to those you faced or do many remain the same?
CC: Options and abundance of choices that dancers can encounter nowadays. There are always opportunities, but what is the one where your heart belongs and calls home.
So would you say you had an optimism about today’s dance opportunities and what the future of our industry holds?
CC: People always need to dance, we were born that way.
Out of all the things you've seen and dancers you've known, are there any secrets to making it? Be honest. We can keep a secret.
CC: The practice of self-love is important.
Connect with ChingI Chang at her website: www.chingichangbigelow.com
Thank you Ching sharing our stories with other dancers, dance creators, dance students and dance admirersㄧ really knits our community tighter together. Wishing you all well, see you soon for more interviews and another dancer’s story!