Jin Xing: The lady from Shanghai

“Jin Xing Dance Theatre Shanghai” is playing at the Joyce Theater through Feb. 5.
For more information, visit www.joyce.org.

Jin Xing, whose name means “Gold Star,” was a 9-year-old Chinese kid of Korean ancestry when he joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1976 and began training as a dancer. Ten years later he came to New York, studying and performing in the modern dance community.

Returning home, Jin had sexual reassignment surgery, and she now runs a dance troupe based in Shanghai, choreographing in styles ranging from Isadora Duncan to Pilobolus, with stops in between at Humphrey-Weidman, Martha Graham and various tropes of Chinese dance including billowing scarves and dazzling cartwheels. Living as a woman with a husband and three adopted children, and still dancing in her mid-forties, she’s something of a celebrity in China.

Her 11-part show at the Joyce has its pleasures, but feels more like a competent college-modern concert than an exploration of any particular aesthetic. Jin seems out of touch with the last 20 years of dance development, relying on sentimental imagery (a ballerina spinning atop a music box; a fraught family drama featuring a woman torn between her violent husband, her anxious lover and her child) and props like bicycles rather than innovative movement design. Her men are often bare-chested, her women bare-legged.

Recorded music from Astor Piazzolla to Dead Can Dance accompanies this pastiche, concluding with a stilted number for guys on bikes and girls in evening gowns, racing around to a Strauss waltz.  Still celebrating the Year of the Dragon? You could do it here.


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