Yung Yung Tsuai: The Difference in Butterflies

Re-posted from Short Compositions on Life, Art, PR and More (originally posted on 8.14.2011)

“I would love to be as soft and free as silk,” Yung Yung Tsuai

Monday, August 15 from 1 to 2 pm I will have another special guest on WIOXYung Yung Tsuai – Chinese dancer and martial arts expert. Born in China in 1948, Yung Yung was raised in Taipei, Taiwan. She started to take dance lessons at the age of five. She excelled both in Chinese traditional folk dance, as well as European ballet. Yung Yung distinguished herself from her peers, and won many dance competitions at an early age. The stage became her “power spot,” as she remembers today.

Soon, Yung Yung was to become a child star in Taiwan, and had her own weekly television show, for which she also did the choreography. In her youth, Yung Yung also worked as a stuntwoman for kung fu movies in Taiwan.

Growing up on the beautiful island of Taiwan, Yung Yung had a fascination for Hollywood, starting at an early age; she grew up with “The Wizard of Oz” and Dorothy, and she admired Judy Garland.

In 1969 Yung Yung was taking tap dance classes at the American Center in Taipei, when she met Martha Graham. The following year, she embarked on a plane to come to New York on a Martha Graham scholarship. At the Martha Graham School in New York City Yung Yung remembers: “Dancers learn to use their bodies as instruments. We push to the limit of our physical capacity. If we break through the barrier of physical limitation, there is a chance to glimpse the enormous unknown energy locked within our bodies. Martha Graham created a technique which I believe is more difficult than any other dance form.”

Although she came to master Martha Graham technique, and has taught for many years at the Martha Graham School, and many other schools in the United States, Yung Yung developed her own choreography and founded her own dance company, managed by her husband Martin Lerner.

Yung Yung met Martin shortly after she moved to New York – she was the first Chinese Martin ever met. In the early 1970s, Yung Yung remembers, there weren’t many Chinese in the City. Yung Yung married Martin shortly after; they’re still together today, after 40 years.

In the United States, Yung Yung has known success as a dancer and teacher, and has met many famous people. Her daughter Tysan is also a dancer.

In 2007, Yung Yung wrote her memoir The Difference In Butterflies with co-author Marilyn Meeske Sorel. This is what the publisher IUniverse says: “In this memoir we experience the fall and resurrection of a professional dancer / choreographer who, with the help of Martha Graham and an unconventional psychotherapist, Shepherd Hoodwin, escapes outer and inner tyranny, to find passionate love and the ultimate – identity as her own woman: free to be.”

Tune in this Monday for a lovely conversation!