Temple dance MFA student performs in South Philly company

Wangbo Zhu moved to Philadelphia from China and is a second-year dance MFA student.

Kun-Yang Lin (center) is executive artistic director and founder of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, a company in South Philadelphia. He instructs a rehearsal at a studio on Oct. 24. | ERIK COOMBS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As a little kid, Wangbo Zhu never liked to sit down. 

Zhu started dancing when he was 10 years old at a studio in Xi’an, China. 

Zhu, a second-year dance MFA student, was given one of 10 spots at Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, a professional dance company in South Philadelphia, this summer. The company combines Eastern dance philosophies with contemporary dance. 

As a teaching assistant, Zhu is also mentored by Kun-Yang Lin, the company’s founder and executive artistic director and a dance professor at Temple.

Zhu moved to Philadelphia last year after tearing his meniscus and undergoing right knee surgery.

“I felt like I needed a fresh start, for the art and for the dance,” he said.

When he came to Temple, Zhu didn’t speak English well and adapting to American culture took awhile, he said. 

“The hardest thing for me was the language,” he added. “My first semester here, I could not really understand what my professors were talking about.”

In China, Zhu was a traditional dancer at Bejing Dance Academy. He’s now switched to modern, contemporary dance, and his first show at Temple was a duet combining aspects of old and new styles of dance.

He is trying to combine what he is learning at Temple with his former dancing experience, and dancing at Lin’s company helps this fusion, Zhu said. 

The company embraces dancers with different backgrounds, said Katie Moore, the company’s business director.

“[Lin] choreographs all the work, but in collaboration with the artists,” she added. “He likes to use a mix of both eastern and western dances.” 

For Zhu, the main differences between dancing in the United States and China are the facial expressions, he said.

“In China, we do a lot of dance dramas. At the same time, I am dancing, and I am acting,” he added.   

Zhu said he also notices cultural differences in the classes at Temple. Because of societal hierarchies in China, students would not tell their professors they are wrong. Here, students can give their opinion about the classes, he added.

“Professors ask us, ‘What do you think about this?’” he said.

Hassan Syed, a second-year dance MFA student and Zhu’s dance partner at Temple, said Zhu’s new experience at Lin’s company is going to help his career. 

Based on courses he has taken with Lin, Syed said Lin has a strong ability to help dancers discover their style. 

“I think he is a good teacher and he has good ideas to help people,” Syed added. 

While Zhu already had a professional and extensive performance background in China, being in the company adds more diversity to his resume and professional career, Moore said.

“We would like to see him grow,” she added. “We just hope that we can help him in his journey in figuring out where he wants to be.” 

Zhu is unsure if he’s going to stay in the U.S. or if he’ll move home.

His fellow dancers are the reason Zhu enjoys being a part of the company. Everyone’s dedication and friendship make him feel welcomed, he said

“The company members, they are really professionals and they help the new dancers, like me,” he said. 

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