Yuan Yuan Tan in John Neumeier's The Little Mermaid. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

Yuan Yuan Tan on Fate, Feeling Behind & the Joy of the Creative Process

I think fate brought me to dance. My mom had dreamed of becoming a dancer, but was discouraged by my grandfather. At 10 years old I ended up being one of a couple thousand kids to be selected to audition at Shanghai Dance School. I had all the criteria they wanted.

But my parents disagreed whether or not I should pursue ballet. So I didn't start until one year later. I felt behind. I had never seen ballet and had no idea what my classmates were doing. But when you enter the school, you basically have a job already. You graduate and then go straight into a company, just like in Russia. So I never questioned that ballet was my path.


Today, dance shapes who I am in every way. I've learned that the mind is so strong—and that I am quite stubborn. At one point I had labral tears in both hips. The doctor suggested arthroscopic surgery. He said the chance of recovery was 25 percent and it could take up to two years. When I understood that there would be no guarantees, I refused to do the surgery. I rested for two weeks, then I retrained myself to know what my body needed. About a month later, I returned to the stage.

One experience that really shaped me as a dancer was working with John Neumeier on The Little Mermaid in 2011. John is not only a great choreographer, but also such a mentor and acting coach. Every step he creates has a meaning. The Little Mermaid changed my perspective as a performer—he brought out so much artistry in me. As a dancer, the final joy is onstage, but the process is also such a joy. Seeing the changes in the studio little by little, I think that's beautiful.

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J. Alice Jackson, Courtesy CHRP

Chicago Human Rhythm Project's Rhythm World Finally Celebrates Its 30th Anniversary

What happens when a dance festival is set to celebrate a landmark anniversary, but a global pandemic has other plans?

Chicago's Rhythm World, the oldest tap festival in the country, should have enjoyed its 30th iteration last summer. Disrupted by COVID-19, it was quickly reimagined for virtual spaces with a blend of recorded and livestreamed classes. So as not to let the pandemic rob the festival of its well-deserved fanfare, it was cleverly marketed as Rhythm World 29.5.

Fortunately, the festival returns in full force this year, officially marking three decades of rhythm-making with three weeks of events, July 26 to August 15. As usual, the festival will be filled with a variety of master classes, intensive courses and performances, as well as a teacher certification program and the Youth Tap Ensemble Conference. At the helm is Chicago native Jumaane Taylor, the newly appointed festival director, who has curated both the education and performance programs. Taylor, an accomplished choreographer, came to the festival first as a young student and later as part of its faculty.

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July 2021