the life of 金星 jin xing

Conversations on contemporary art in China that swung around to dance invariably brought mention of Shanghai choreographer and dancer Jin Xing. I seem to blog about her fairly often, and she seems also to receive frequent biography articles as she is something of a superstar.

“Becoming a charming woman, speaking foreign languages, marriage, having my own dance company, travelling all over the world, having beautiful children – it’s like a fantasy.”

It has been nearly 12 years since Jin smashed gender barriers in China by changing her sex to female in a procedure that nearly crippled her but fulfilled the deepest of her desires.

“When I was six years old I felt I had not been born in the right body,” Jin says. “I had an older sister and the way people looked and treated her – I felt that people should treat me like her.”

While her choreography has won her fame in her chosen profession, Jin Xing acknowledges that it was her sex change that propelled her to stardom, especially in China where sex is commonly a subject of embarrassment, and in public still downright taboo.

Having been through so much to achieve her goals, she cares little for the opinions and scepticism of others.

“Whether it is the dancer, choreographer, transsexual, or former military officer, it does not matter. I have so many identities from different perspectives. It does not make a complete person,” she says.

— The Star online

Gender bender dancer

A former military colonel, Jin Xing acknowledges that it was her sex change that propelled her to stardom.

By BENJAMIN MORGAN

CHINA’S most famous and successful choreographer Jin Xing, strides into the dance hall self-assured, fashionably dressed and a little out of breath.

The former military colonel and ballet dancer – as well known for changing her sex as for her dancing – apologises for being late, but her schedule is hectic ahead of preparations for a performance in Italy.

Only days later it’s Hong Kong for meetings, followed by a speaking engagement in Vienna, and then to Stockholm for a solo performance.

Her German husband, Heinz-Gerd Oidtmann, 39, whom she married in 2005 after meeting on a first class flight to Paris, and her three adopted children, Leo, six, Vivian, four, and Julian, three, will await her return to Shanghai, where Jin, now 39, has lived since 2000.

In her relatively new role as wife and mother, China’s only choreographer to direct her own dance company is delighted that her life is unfolding like a fairy tale.

“Everything I have achieved today was only a dream when I was 16 or 17,” Jin says, her voice still unnaturally deep for a woman due to vocal chords left in place.

“Becoming a charming woman, speaking foreign languages, marriage, having my own dance company, travelling all over the world, having beautiful children – it’s like a fantasy.”

It has been nearly 12 years since Jin smashed gender barriers in China by changing her sex to female in a procedure that nearly crippled her but fulfilled the deepest of her desires.

“When I was six years old I felt I had not been born in the right body,” Jin says. “I had an older sister and the way people looked and treated her – I felt that people should treat me like her.”

While her choreography has won her fame in her chosen profession, Jin Xing acknowledges that it was her sex change that propelled her to stardom, especially in China where sex is commonly a subject of embarrassment, and in public still downright taboo.

Having been through so much to achieve her goals, she cares little for the opinions and scepticism of others.

“Whether it is the dancer, choreographer, transsexual, or former military officer, it does not matter. I have so many identities from different perspectives. It does not make a complete person,” she says.

“Some people meet me and right away they know I’m a serious artist. Others, because of the gender change, have funny ideas. People think that I’m a diva, a big celebrity and that I have a pushy attitude, but they meet me and realise I’m very simple.”

Diva or not, one thing is certain – Jin is accustomed to fighting for and getting what she wants, a trait she attributes to an iconoclastic mix of idealism, pragmatism and sheer determination.

Candid, funny but somewhat remote, Jin is above all serious about modern dance, an art form she has helped advance in artistically conservative China and one that has helped make sense of the darker moments.

“So many things that cannot be, or where one cannot find a way, dancing helps. It balances me,” she says.

Born into an ethnic Korean family in northeast China, Jin, whose name in Chinese means “golden star” discovered her passion for the stage early, peforming in kindergarten before being chosen to attend Liaoning’s People Liberation Army Song and Dance Academy.

Her father, an officer in the PLA, was firmly opposed to the move, regarding it as “too sissy”, but gave in when Jin, then nine, proved her commitment with a two-day hunger strike.

As the youngest person ever enrolled in the provincial military dance school, Jin struggled with the physically gruelling training.

Even for members of the dance troupe, rigorous military training was par for the course. By the age of 12, Jin says, she knew enough about explosives to blow up a building.

Jin looks back on her 17 years in the military with fondness. “It was a happy time, to be honest. Compared to other Chinese kids, I was already highly privileged.”

With the arrival of puberty, Jin found that as a young man she was attracted to men, and suddenly had to deal with the emotional confusion surrounding her own sexuality.

“I was confused, wondering if I was homosexual, but deep in my heart I thought, ‘no I’m not gay.’”

Jin ignored her sexual feelings to concentrate on dance. The effort paid off when she was named the country’s top dancer at 18, an award that enabled her to pursue a scholarship to study modern dance in New York.

Soon after settling in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood in 1988, Jin began to frequent the gay scene but found that it didn’t suit her.

Nevertheless, she fell in love with a man she describes as a cowboy. “I even moved to Texas for him, gave up New York, gave up dancing for him.”

But the relationship lasted only three months, after which Jin returned to New York heartbroken.

In 1991 she moved to Italy, where she became a choreographer for a popular television show. She then spent a year in Brussels before returning to China in 1993.

Several unsatisfying relationships later, Jin made up her mind to become a woman.

After returning to Beijing, Jin decided in late 1995 to press ahead with her sex change.

Although Jin was not the first in China to have a sex change, her operation nonetheless went wrong when, in the early stages of her recovery, a nurse accidentally cut off the blood flow to her left calf. Months of rehabilitation ensued.

But once she had recovered, the pace of Jin’s life only accelerated. A stint as director of the Beijing Modern Dance Ensemble overseen by the cultural bureau lasted two years before Jin felt compelled to quit, citing censorship issues.

In 1999 she founded her own company, Jin Xing Dance, and moved to Shanghai a year later. The troupe of 15 dancers performs less than 10 times a year in China and far more often overseas.

She has no regrets, she says, her gaze unflinching and the shake of the head firm.

“Nothing happens by chance. Everything has a reason. I believe in fate, even though I don’t have any religion.” – AFP