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Crossing Over
Jin Xing has never regretted her decision two years ago to move to Shanghai. "Time turned in my favor," she said. Her dancing career took a giant step forward. She became an active figure in local social and art circles. And the 33-year transsexual woman became a mother of two children.

Her latest work, "Cross Border", is a multi-media dance drama collaboration with British pianist Joanna MacGregor.

"It is completely made in Shanghai," she said. With visual images taken from scenes of Shanghai daily life, filled with characters and episodes from Chinese and Western classics, in which ancient and contemporary times are juxtaposed, the ambitious work has attempted to catch the rhythm of ever-changing social existence.

Only a few months ago, Jin played a female dog that almost destroyed the family of Lu Liang in the American play "Sylvia". The slight touch of cynical humor in the character obviously originated with Jin Xing. "He loves me," said the doted-upon pet Sylvia. "Even my shit, he believes, is Haagen-Dazs."

Unique Identity

"Don't you think that Shanghai's social circle needs a woman like me?" said Jin, the dancer-actor-social activist, sitting relaxed in Maxim's Restaurant on the ground floor of the Grand Theatre.

Jin Xing used to dislike people paying more attention to her transsexual operation than her dancing art. Her attitude has changed with the passage of time. "There is only one Jin Xing. There is only one transsexual dancer. It is me."

She was glad to take advantage of her special identity, probing into the gender issue and talking about sexual topics.

This spring, German choreographer Dieter Baumman created a dance called "Person To Person" on the theme of sexual identities. "A Western man and an Asian woman dance on the stage, striking the most stylized poses of men and women, those which typify men and women. Then we do it in reverse."

It is a communication between the two sexes, reminding people that large parts of sexual identity are regulated by society and can be broken. "There is no 'what it must be"' she said.

Modern Dancer

Jin spoke fast, in a low husky voice. She makes frequent gestures, such as knocking on the table when she reaches exciting points.

"I don't think I am a 'tiger balm', a cure-all that can do everything," she said. "But all arts are interrelated. They have enlightened, inspired my creation."

She used to say, and she still believes, that 70 per cent of modern art is trash without any value. "There is no rule in modern art. Anybody can do it. Artists that complain about not being understood are just making excuses," Jin said. "Only artists with enough culture and artistic attainment can produce really good work. No matter what purposes bring the audience to the theatre, I am sure to impress them with my dance, my art."

She said only three women dancers can represent the Chinese dancing art: Yang Liping, who represents folk traditions, and Shen Peiyi, a classical beauty. Jin Xing herself stands for modern dance in China.

Jin joined the Qianjin Song & Dance Troupe as a boy of nine - he won the acceptance of his parents only after two days abstaining from food.

His talent for dance was revealed when he studied in the Art Academy of People's Liberation Army. A choreographer made him stand on his toes for one of the performances, which made him the first man to dance this way in the world.

He won a top prize in the first important dance competition nationwide one year after graduation. Three years later, he gained a special scholarship and went to study modern dance in New York.

"Although I came out as winner of a competition, I am against dance competitions," Jin said. She believed arts festivals are more valuable than competitions. "We Chinese tend to prefer to gamble. The mentality is very strong. But a competition can only judge the skill, but not the art."

Career Challenge

Even as a teenager, Jin believed he was a woman, only one born with a male body. He thought about changing it, making it right. He kept thinking about it, from 19 till he was 28.

The operation was carried out in Beijing's Xiangshan Hospital in 1995. A little medical accident happened during the 16-hour operation, which nearly destroyed her career. Jin woke up and found she could not move her left leg and foot. She was terrified that she might not be able to dance or even walk again.

She started rehabilitation treatment with great willpower. Three months later she returned to the stage, dancing as a woman, for the first open performance of modern dance on the Chinese mainland.

Jin set up the first Chinese modern dance company in Beijing the following year. Three years later, she decided to move to the south. The Jinxing Modern Dance Company also moved to Shanghai.

"Fortunately, our box office has always been good," Jin said about the operation of the company. "We don't give free tickets. Whoever wants to watch my performance has to pay for it." But the company still has to rely heavily on commercial performances and activities.

"As an artist, I have to spend 50 per cent of my time on marketing," she said with indignation. "If I were in another country, there would have been several syndicates sponsoring me."

She strongly advocates the setting up of an art funding organization in China. "It is not that we lack money. So many large-scale entertainment shows are held every year, with tens of millions invested. It is like a big piece of cheese, left for mice to gnaw freely. How can there not be corruption?"

(Shanghai Star November 21, 2002)

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