With Shen Yun Since: 2010
Jim Chen won first place (junior male division) in New Tang Dynasty Television’s 2010 International Classical Chinese Dance Competition. He also won second place in the same competition in 2009 and 2012, before winning second place (adult male division) in 2014. He studied classical Chinese dance at the New York-based Fei Tian Academy of the Arts and Fei Tian College.
Chinese given name: Juncheng Chen (陳俊丞).
Lived in: Taipei, New York.
Languages: Chinese, English.
Best dance technique: Backflip layout.
Hardest dance piece ever performed: Monkey King.
Favorite character to portray on stage: Monkey King.
Most prominent strength: Challenging classical Chinese dance techniques.
Favorite dance story: Wu Song Battles the Tiger (2010).
Shen Yun dance piece that never fails to move you: The 2016 closing piece Hope for the Future.
First heard of Shen Yun: 2008.
Love most about dancing: Losing yourself in the dance.
Favorite aspects of classical Chinese dance: “Bearing,” which is the physical expression of inner feelings, and portraying specific characters and personalities.
Favorite ethnic dance: Mongolian—because it’s a dance style that is so powerful and free. It’s both masculine and unfettered, and so I feel it matches my personality well.
Favorite folk dance: Drum dances from the dusty plateaus of northwest China.
Favorite Shen Yun costume: The furry dance costume from the Tibetan Dance of Praise (2010).
Most memorable audience reaction: Once during Monkey King, when I jumped up and then off the platform, everyone in the audience suddenly applauded. I’m used to audience applauding mid-dance, but this wasn’t a spot where people usually applaud, and I was happy that they were that engaged and following so closely.
Most interesting thing someone told you after seeing the show: Again it had to do with a jump I performed when I literally jumped on to the scene to appear as the mischievous deity-child Ne Zha. A close friend of mine whom I’ve known since elementary school said that when he saw me he almost cried.
Best compliment you’ve received professionally: Every time I hear that I’m improving in my performance.
Nicest Shen Yun-related compliment you’ve ever received: One time I read an audience member’s review saying that he felt the Monkey King was like his friend.
What inspires you? A sense of responsibility.
What do you find most meaningful about dancing with Shen Yun? Being able to share our traditional culture around the world.
How is the you of today different from the you when you first joined Shen Yun? I’m more motivated in improving my craft. I think this is because of the audience—to be able to see them smile, I feel like everything we do is worth it.
As a veteran dancer, what advice do you have for younger dancers? When you reach a plateau, don’t just focus on technical improvement; instead, try to focus on the fundamentals. Usually, the simplest approach is the best solution.
How would you introduce the spirit of being a member of the Shen Yun family to a new dancer? Be humble, learn how to cooperate as a team and, most of all, develop a sense of mission.
During 100-plus shows a season, how do you maintain freshness and high standards? A combination of meditation, which helps me stay focused, and professional training.
What’s open on your playlist right now? Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra.
Make-up takes: 45 minutes.
Warm-up method: Flying kicking techniques called fēi jiǎo (飛腳), followed by abs work and jumping techniques.
Pre-show boost: High-fives.
Pre-show energy food: Chocolate.
Intermission activity: Practicing techniques from the second half.
Post-show wind-down: Take a shower, go to sleep.
How do you deal with injuries: The less you think about it, the less it will hurt.
What do you do between shows on two-show days? Meditate.
Tips for living out of a suitcase: Just bring the essentials.
Favorite packing tip: Fold it nicely.
Travel day food: PB&J.
Hardest thing about tour: Waking up in the morning.
Favorite cold drink: Coke.
Favorite hot drink: Coffee.
Favorite food: Steak.
Favorite Chinese historical figure: The heroic-yet-tragic general Xiang Yu (from the Qin Dynasty, third century B.C.).
Wanted to be as a kid: Entomologist.
Favorite way to relax: Sauna.
Favorite tour city: Taipei (my hometown).
Favorite theater to perform in and why: Shen Yun Theater back on campus in New York.
What feeling do you get when the curtain goes up: Sometimes I feel like crying; sometimes I feel like the divine is all around us.
What feeling do you get when you put the costume on: I feel like I’m already part of the dance.
If you had one wish: That everyone comes to watch Shen Yun at least once.