Inspired by Black Swan, Chinese Classical Dancer Lin Niu Expands Her Dance Repertoire & Directs Own Movie

So much more. Dance. To come.

Even though, dancer Lin Niu has graduated from China’s top art academy, the Shanghai Theatre Academy, and performed in award winning dance works like the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, and the 2010 Shanghai Expo Opening Ceremony, she was inspired by the stunning visuals of 5-time Oscar nominated dance movie, Black Swan. Starring Natalie Portman as a committed dancer struggling to maintain her sanity after winning the lead role in a major production, Lin notes that Black Swan is full of swirling, vibrant visuals and movements, bringing the dance to life.

Lin Niu in graceful performance

For example, Lin, who recently had exciting performance experiences in “Phoenix in the Spring American Chinese Spring Festival Gala,” and “Together as One” Online Charity Concert, says of dance movies, “Two of my favorite dance movies are Center Stage and especially Black Swan, which inspired me to shoot my first short film, The Dancing Class. In the Black Swan movie, the camera’s movement and the dance movement each adds to each other, and the final effect is perfect. I once listened to this Oscar-nominated cinematographer’s class on Zoom and thought he was really talented.”

The cast of The Dancing Class

In addition, wanting to “explore new art forms” like film, after studying and performing in international events in her native China, Lin earned an MFA master’s degree in film production at California State University. She has now used those new filmmaking skills to bring dance and her specialty, Chinese Classical Dance (including classical dance, Han Tang dance and Dunhuang dance), to a wider audience. She explains, “Similar to Black Swan, The Dancing Class deals with desire and ambition in the dance world. I directed the film and it tells a story about a dancer’s dream, combining dance with filmmaking. I’ve been honored that my short has won several awards at short film festivals in the U.S.”

Reviewer quote: “With beautiful and dynamic choreography/dance, The Dancing Class short film pinpoints the Faustian bargain that the ambitious young dancer faces — what will I do to achieve success, will I sell my body or even my soul to achieve it?”

Indeed, her short film earned several honors including: Independent Shorts Awards — -Bronze award for best student director (female); IndieX Film Fest — -nominated for best young filmmaker (female); Los Angeles Film Awards — -nominated for first time director; and, Top Shorts Film Festival — -nominated for first time director.

Lin Niu earns award for choreography for dance competition called Showstopper

Additionally, Lin is no stranger to earning accolades. She was previously the lead dancer in the award-winning dance work “Flying Dragon and Dancing Phoenix” created by STA School of Dance. Other accolades for “Flying Dragon” include: Original Teaching Drama Award; Silver Awards for the Choreography and Performance of the 9th “Tao Li Cup” (2009); and Gold Work Award at the 7th Chinese Dance “Lotus Awards” Campus Dance Competition.

While Lin’s forte has been Chinese classical dance, she has added even more strength studying and incorporating various types of modern and contemporary styles of dance, explaining: “My advantage is not only my professional knowledge but also my rich experience in choreography and teaching. Learning dance from the age of four gave me a solid professional knowledge, so I am qualified at choreographing dances from Chinese classical dance, Chinese ancient style jazz, contemporary dance, Chinese folk dance, and modern dance. Now, the awards I won for the choreography gave me more confidence. In addition, I like new things and exploring many possibilities. Therefore, I don’t limit my choreography to Chinese classical dance.”

Lin Niu stirring the soul through movement

Moreover, acquiring an MFA in film production, has broadened her skillset, saying, “Film is a more popular medium and is diversified, complex, layered and structured, and echoes before and after. In the past, when I was choreographing, I thought more about the movement, making the action smoother, and making the music and dance more coordinated. Since studying movies, I have been more concerned about emotional and spatial changes, and I am often willing to try to break the traditions I believe to be. I feel that in this process of constant change and breaking the conventions, I keep making progress.” She observantly adds, “Film, and movies about dance, also has the advantages of fast dissemination and wide range. By making dance into a film, it can help more people to understand this art.”

As a result, Lin has also recently performed in Los Angeles in the thrilling “Memory 5D — An Immersive Musical Odyssey,” but it all goes back to her childhood dreams and wishes.

Firstly, she left her hometown of Chengdu, Sichuan Province at the age of 10, and went to Shanghai to learn dance alone. Her parents totally supported her, even moreso when she entered the best dance school and won various dance awards. She explains, “This experience forced me to become very independent, and my personality became very strong in learning dance. The six years of dance training gave me a solid foundation in dancing and helped me successfully enter the Shanghai Theatre Academy. My parents were even more convinced that the path I chose was the right one with this series of success.”

Secondly, she feels a responsibility to pass on the wonders of Chinese classical dance, saying, “China has a long history, and many things inherited from the classics need to be passed on to our descendants. Although the essential elements of many dances come from ancient times, they have been reprocessed by choreographers and turned into wonderful classical dances that are easily accepted by the public nowadays.”

But, moving forward, she adds, “On the basis of retaining the characteristics of Chinese classical dance, I love to add appropriate western elements so that it is more suitable for Chinese American student dancers who were born and raised here and received a Western education. For me, dance is an ongoing part of my life. All the works record my progress and the thoughts I want to express.”

To sum up, her goal is to hold a dance exhibition to show all the dances that she has worked on: “Since I studied my MFA in film production, the dances I choreograph now have both a sense of stage and a sense of camera. This kind of dance is suitable for performing on stage or watching on the Internet or TV. I am currently choreographing a number of dances and preparing to participate in the Showstopper and other dance competitions next year. I look forward to seeing my work on stage again in two years.”

Lin has definitely so much more dancing to come.

Check out dancer Lin Niu’s award-winning short film, The Dancing Class, on YouTube. And, drop in on Lin Niu on Instagram and on IMDb.

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Ashley Jude Collie

Ashley Jude Collie

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Award-winning journalist-author-blogger for Playboy, TO Star, Movie Entertainment, HuffPost, Hello Canada & my novel REJEX (Pulp Hero Press) is on Amazon.