Quiet, reserved, and full of unexpected vigor, Jennifer Lin is one of those artists who creates simply because she must. A true example of an open and curious mind, Jennifer returned to college to pursue her MFA decades into her career as a dancer and dance maker, using the opportunity to transition a previously Western-focused dance career into one that explored her Korean roots and the traditions of many Asian cultures. It was my pleasure to learn this and more about Jennifer. Read on to hear for yourself the journey of this humble and astute gem of an artist.
GETTING TO KNOW: JEnnifer Lin
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CREATING WORK AND IN WHAT CONTEXT?
I have been making work off and on throughout my career. The situation is that I have been creating dances mostly within public and private educational institutions where I studied or taught and not out in public communities. Though I have a long history dating back to the early 1980s in the Boston Dance Community, my role has been as a dancer in other artist’s companies or other independent choreographer’s work.
In 2004 I started to show my work at The Dance Complex. Then I left Boston to live in Honolulu from 2007-2012. In Honolulu, I was a nontraditional graduate student in a program where basically my professors were my peers. I studied ethnography and Asian Pacific Island dance, specifically Korean dance as it is practiced both in Honolulu and Korea. Returning to Boston in 2012, I began participating in various programs at The Dance Complex in Cambridge such as NACHMO Boston and Tiny Dances and at Boston Conservatory World Fest, Dance for World Community and other arts festivals and venues.
WHAT TENDS TO BE YOUR INSPIRATION OR CATALYST FOR CREATION?
In the past my work has been mostly concerned with abstract form and composition, visual design, and the pursuit of beauty and technique. As a young conservatory and classically trained American dancer, I identified to a Western identity and values in arts and culture. However, as a midcareer artist, I also sometimes combine my interests in form and abstraction and pursuit of beauty with Asian American topics, story telling, and choreography that is inspired by combining elements from both Western and Korean dance.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE BOSTON DANCE COMMUNITY?
I have been a dancer/performing off and on in the Boston dance community since 1979. In the mid-eighties I moved to Central Massachusetts where I taught at several schools and also worked with a ballet company in Southern New Hampshire. In the mid 1990s, I began commuting into Cambridge and performing with Daniel McCusker for twelve years. About 2001 I moved into Boston and started to teach locally and show work and then left again in 2007 bound for Honolulu. After four years I returned to Boston from and started teaching and showing work again.
DURING YOUR TIME IN THE BOSTON DANCE COMMUNITY, WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ARE THE STRENGTHS OF THE COMMUNITY?
There are many practicing dancers, choreographers, and performers.
Not enough choreographer and dancer development opportunities, rehearsal space, performance time, financial support, pay for dancers & choreographers, local recognition, and national development. There are not enough finely technically trained dancers. Many serious dancers move on to New York when Boston opportunities aren’t available.
I have been here before. I feel like I have reached a level where I have done all the free performance opportunities. It’s time to reach the next level, which I think is grant awards and paid work commissions. This is where I think many local dance companies start to falter.
The community hasn’t developed in a national way. I feel like most of the support addresses the dance community as something to develop whereas some of us have MFAs and have been teaching for ages. How can we do great work when we can’t pay the dancers and give them the opportunity to perform and grow!?
DO YOU FEEL APART OF THE COMMUNITY?
Basically yes; however, my peers, the older generation, know me as a dancer, not as a choreographer and the younger dancers don’t know me.
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR COMMUNITY?
The local dance community, but our community is too small and not integrated or inclusive enough. Arts need support from more than friends and peers.
YOUR PIECE FOR TWSS IS ABOUT MIGRATION. WHAT INSPIRED THIS PIECE?
On a very basic level, interest in auto-ethnography as art and scholarship, my immigration story and the stories of colleagues and friends inspired the work. I am considering public and private information: personal stories as public artistic material, the performer’s immigration stories and value for the subject.
I was also inspired by a trip to Angel Island in California, an immigration station formerly used for Chinese and other Asian immigrants coming to American and now a historical state park, and by a quote from Franklin Roosevelt that hangs there on a plaque on the wall: “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
HOW HAVE YOU DECIDED TO TACKLE THIS BROAD CONCEPT?
Conceptually and in this case by being abstract as well as occasionally literal. I thought about why people migrate, how they migrate, and what they bring in terms of material objects and non-material ideas. I thought about the elements of human movement and ways to create a sense of traveling with posture, gesture, and locomotor movement. I considered cultural archetypes and archetypal images related to the subjects of traveling, journeying, migrating, and immigrating, as well as the literal meaning of key words and synonyms such as: journey, tramp, roam, wander, drift, rove, march, bridge, cross, shuttle, span, move, etc.
THIS IS YOUR SECOND SEASON PARTICIPATING AS A CHOREOGRAPHER IN TWSS: WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO RETURN FOR A SECOND SEASON?
I loved learning about new types of movement performance (pole dance), inclusion of age, gender, racial differences, and support of non-dominant artists, sense of support and community, positive environment, enthusiasm, professional intention and level of staff and artistic work.
WHAT HAS BEEN MOST GRATIFYING ABOUT THIS CURRENT SEASON OF TWSS?
Meeting and seeing new artists, inclusiveness, feeling like a cohort, enthusiasm, positive energy and support
WHAT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES HAVE YOU BEEN GRANTED OR HAVE YOU BEEN EXPLORING LATELY IN BOSTON DANCE?
I am trying to build on what I have learned from being a participant in these two projects. I am very grateful for the development of photos and video that will greatly help with self-promotion and to find work, and for opportunities that have emerged or might emerge from these projects. For example, I am 1 of 4 finalists for another project as a result; I should know by end of January.
WHERE CAN WE LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK? WHAT IS ON THE DOCKET AFTER TWSS?
I have started an Instagram profile; I need some help with promotion and followers. I have updates to CreativeGround profile and Wordpress website, and I am considering revamping Facebook and starting a WIX site. Wondering if I need a Twitter account.
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU NEED MOST IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO GROW AS AN ARTIST AND A MAKER?
Rehearsal space, preforming opportunities, and pay for dancers. Specifically–a manager, a grant writer, help with grant writing, social media.
ARTISTS LIKE JENNIFER AND PROJECTS LIKE "...THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID" ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO SUPPORT WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS LIKE YOU. PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION OF $5-$500 BY FEBRUARY 21 TO KEEP CREATIVITY THRIVING IN THE CITY OF BOSTON.
WRITTEN BY: KRISTIN WAGNER
Published February 3, 2020
Photos by Olivia Moon Photography/@halfasianlens
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography