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Dancer Sheu Fang-yi shares creative dream

By Camaron Kao--Anyone who has some interest in modern dance must know her. Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜), a world-renowned dancer and performer, is described by the New York Times as the finest present day embodiment of Martha Graham's technique and tradition. In 2005 she made the front page of Dance Magazine as one of the 25 dancers to watch around the world. She became the youngest winner of the 5th rank Order of the Brilliant Star, awarded by the president in 2005, and was praised by famous director Ang Lee (李安) as the icon of Taiwan.

Dream Is Not a Myth

“Dream is not a myth, but a thing happening in reality that can change people's lives,” said Sheu. Born in a society focusing on children's academic performance, before 19 she did not think much about her future because she was not good at studying, said the artist. It all started at the moment when Ross Parkes, former lead dancer of Martha Graham Dance Company, said she had potential, and her life started to have a clear purpose — to become a professional dancer.

Since then, everything she did in her life was for dancing, including eating and sleeping, said Sheu. Since only a few people had expectations of her when she was young, she said she did not want to let Ross Parkes down.

Even though she had no previous experience in New York and her English was not very fluent, she still decided to go to New York. Asked why she chose to go to New York, she replied that it was because Ross Parkes was there when he was in the Martha Graham Dance Company. Describing herself as “simple-minded,” she said to back down or give up was not an option that ever crossed her mind. “I only have limited amount of time to achieve what I went there for,” said the performer. Focusing wholeheartedly on what she wanted and not to think much about difficulties seems to be the secret for her success in New York.

Everyone Is Unique

“Our education always tells us to compete with others, and it makes us feel others are always better than ourselves,” said Sheu. The artist, however, believes that everyone is unique, even if they are a twin. Thus, no one can really be better than anyone. And as a result, everyone, even those who lose in a competition, have the right to dream.

“A good teacher should ask students questions and make them think, instead of just offering them answers,” said the dancer. “We should give children a chance to find answers for themselves.” Indeed, given the unique nature of every person, perhaps no one but themselves can find answers for their lives.

Persistence

“Whenever I have doubts, I try to remind myself why I started dancing in the beginning,” said the dancer. She asks herself whether she still feels happy while dancing, whether it is just because she is tired, or because the income is meager, and whether she likes the art work. She listens to her heart, and if she thinks she is still happy when dancing, she has the answer. By having such a dialogue with herself, she overcame a lot of seemingly strong obstacles, as she describes them, during her career.

Dancing Opens a Window

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In this undated file photo, Sheu Fang-yi (許芳宜) stops for a rest during her daily practice.

(Courtesy of Fang-Yi Sheu & Artists (許芳宜&藝術家))

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