Who I Am

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

When I was four, my mother and I visited Japan and watched a geisha performance. She was sipping on green tea and enjoying a “party” with the geishas, but I was terrified. What I was not familiar with, I was afraid of. The “vampires” with the white, pale faces and sanguine lips held their fans and muttered strange rhymes as if they were summoning me to the inferno. Scared to take even one more peek at those ghost summoners, I cried behind my mother’s back.

The following year, I saw a performance of all the distinctive dances that represented the fifty-five different minority groups across China. I was immediately captivated and started to learn Chinese folk dance. At the beginning of my dance training, just when I started to think I could stay in my own bubble, I met my other “geishas.” I was initially startled by how the Dai minority in China dressed up like peacocks in their dances. However, after 12 years of formal practicing and understanding the dance movements that represent various meanings for each Chinese minority group, I finally learned to embrace what at first seemed foreign to me.

My first test came when I dressed as a peacock and performed the Dai dance at the Ojai Valley School talent show three years ago. I...

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