Kun-Yang Lin will return to the stage after a decade of retirement

Dancer Evalina Carbonell
Anna Wang

If there was ever a time or need for a creative and spiritual escape, it’s during a pandemic—and we can experience it here in Philadelphia.

The Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers under Artistic Director Kun-Yang Lin’s zen-inspired direction provides a showcase of new dances annually, and in 2021, the show will go on— just virtually.

Lin, a native of Taiwan, takes the time annually to choreograph new routines, but this year  Lin will also be performing a special solo debut, which he also choreographed himself. Lin started the dance company here in Philly with intent to create programs that focused on centering our chi or “life force” in Mandarin.

Dancers Wangbo Zhu & Keila Perez-Vega. Anna Wang

“I founded Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D) to celebrate dance as the ultimate integration of body, spirit and mind,” says Lin. “My choreography is often informed by the times we are living in, so the company developed a program for the Annenberg that reflects on the impacts of the pandemic—our new sense of awareness within ourselves and the importance of our connection with others. The performance includes older works that have been reinvented and have taken on new meaning, while also pairing with a new work that was developed during the pandemic. The dance artists and I have been rehearsing for many months virtually and in-person in order to train, rehearse each work, and connect design elements to transport viewers to another place.”

When the pandemic hit, every single person was affected. Creatively, it put a lot of performers and artists on a new path to figure out how to adapt to the times.

“Since our work is so physical, and the connection to others in the space is very important, in-person engagements are crucial to the work,” explains Lin. Since the start of COVID-19, rehearsals were put on hold at first, and now to do their part to keep safety in mind, the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers also now have a smaller cast of dancers. “The company had to stay very aware of everyone’s individual situations and keep in touch constantly as well as wear masks that are sometimes uncomfortable to dance in. It took more time to put everything together. But, we have endured the pandemic and we are going to come out of this time with a new sense of appreciation for one another. I’m really looking forward to having our company perform this week—it is one of our first real company performances since over a year ago,” he continues.

Now, after a long year of shifting and adapting, the dancers, including Lin, are making their way back to the stage. According to the release, as a recently revealed surprise for Annenberg audiences, KYL/D will debut a new work of notable significance. The performance focuses on renewal, hope, unity, and finding a deeper connection to humanity through vignettes from diverse repertoire and a unique world premiere. This project was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and will kick off this Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m.

“Audience members will experience six diverse works that focus on themes of isolation, self-reflection, renewal, and hope,” says Lin. “We have an incredible group of dance artists who have been rehearsing for months to bring a unique experience to our online viewers. This will be the first time KYL/D has had a livestream event, so we also are excited as we don’t know exactly how the camerawork will look until after the show. We are also grateful to have the opportunity for audience members to send messages during the show that will be discussed during the Q&A immediately following the performance.”

Returning to the stage for the first time since his retirement from dancing in 2013, ‘The Wind’ marks the first piece Lin has choreographed for himself since 2009.

“When I began to develop my solo, titled ‘The Wind’, I was about thinking about the connection between aging and creativity,” he explains. “I talked with individuals about their journeys through life and how their sense of creativity has changed over the years. I had been experiencing several medical issues over the years and recognized the changes happening in my body and how that might have influenced my work. The process began with a lot of improvisation by myself. Once the dance artists were able to come back to the studio, I engaged them in the process—learning the choreography and providing feedback. The movement always came first, and then eventually I found a sound score that matched the environment I wanted to create. This is the first time I have performed in eight years, so I hope viewers gain perspective of, or appreciation for, a mature dancing body on stage and how we can continue to communicate our experiences through dance. The piece is a reflection on my artistic journey and hopes to demonstrate how dance has always been my first language.”

Dancer Annielille Gavino. Anna Wang

KYL/D dance artists performing this year also include Keila Pérez-Vega, Annielille Gavino, Weiwei Ma, Evalina Carbonell and Wangbo Zhu. Tickets for their performance being live-streamed by the Annenberg Center this week are $25.

Aside from the entertainment value, Lin also hopes that audiences can take away more from the performance than ever before.

“We hope audience members recognize the power of dance to transform and heal, that the arts have something to contribute during great challenges, the arts speak to universal experiences, and that the arts uplift our communities.”

To learn more about the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers , visit kyld.org