China's most celebrated modern dancer is fabulously talented - a world-class dancer and choreographer and she is fluent in five languages. Jin Xing, (which means "Golden Star") has acted, directed, choreographed, and danced into people's hearts and to much public acclaim everywhere from New York to Rome to Brussels.
Born in Shenyang, an industrial city in northeastern Liaoning province, her father was an officer in the army, her mother a translator (both parents are ethnic Koreans).
Jin Xing ("Golden Star" in Mandarin) exhibited exceptional grace at the age of 4, and by 6, he knew that he was different from other boys - he felt like a girl trapped in a boy's body. When he was 9, he staged a hunger strike until he convinced his father to allow him to enroll in the Shenyang Military Dance Troupe's dance school.
At 18, after grueling years spent entertaining the nation's troops, he was declared China's best dancer and promoted to the rank of colonel. A scholarship took him to New York where he discovered contemporary ballet, freedom, and sexual tolerance. At age 19, he studied dance in New York under Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Jose Limon, some of the biggest names in dance. In New York, the piece Half Dream, included in Shanghai Tango, won him the award for "Best Choreographer" at the 1991 American Dance Festival.
The fallout from the Tiananmen crackdown enabled Jin to stay in the U.S. There, he was "introduced to an alternative lifestyle in the gay bars on Broadway," writes Levey. But Jin didn't feel like a homosexual. He felt like a woman.
In the two years that followed, he was invited to perform and choreograph works with the cream of New York's dance world. He then spent 18 months in Rome working for one of Italy's television networks as a dancer-choreographer. There he met people who had undergone sex-change operations, and learned more about the procedures.
Back to China, the Chinese Communist Party, which has never been known for tolerance, had no complaints about a transsexual becoming the standard-bearer of a new culture. Her GRS took place in 1995, in China, where surgeons have allegedly been performing GRS since 1938. Her mother, although troubled by her sex change, gave her total emotional support.
After her sex change, Chinese opera houses overflowed with crowds eager to see this unusual dancer. Tickets went for the equivalent of half the average monthly salary. "People complain about the system, saying there is too little freedom in China," Jin says. "But there is always enough space to accomplish something incredible."
She has danced throughout Europe and managed her own dance company in Beijing. Now, she's in Shanghai with her production Shanghai Tango. Jin Xing's goal is to raise the level of Shanghai's modern art, in all its forms, to the level of its international counterparts.
Meanwhile, she also wants to internationalize the city's art scene. After a national 20 city tour of Shanghai Tango, Jin Xing pushed Western opera on Shanghai with Carmina Burana, with dancers from both her company and abroad performing together.
Besides numerous offers of commissions to choreograph new dances, she is the owner of a bar/restaurant and performance space in Beijing. At the same time, she is branching into acting, appearing in a joint Hungarian-Chinese film production, and auditioning for the role of Madame Mao Zedong in another production. She found a baby for adoption so that Jin Xing could become a mother.