PeiJu Chien-Pott is a Taiwanese dancer, principal at the Martha Graham Dance Company in NYC.
PeiJu Chien-Pott is an award-winning New York-based contemporary dancer. She won and entered Taipei National University of the Arts’ seven-year dance program. After receiving her BFA in Dance, she performed internationally with the Taipei Crossover Dance Company as a leading dancer. In 2008, she relocated to New York City from Taiwan. Dancer PeiJu joined the acclaimed Martha Graham Dance Company, after studying under legendary choreographers Lo Man-Fei and Merce Cunningham, in 2011. In 2017, Chien-Pott was invited to perform at the Taipei Universiade. She became the first Taiwanese dancer to receive the Bessie Award for Outstanding Performer for her work in the company’s 2017 show Ekstasis. She was honored with “People of the Year” in 2017 by PAR Performing Arts Magazine of Taiwan and the “Outstanding Dance Artist Award” from the government in Taiwan. In 2019, she was selected as Ten Outstanding Young Persons of Taiwan by Junior Chamber International.
When and where does your passion for dance come from? Have you always wanted to be a dancer? What did it mean to you? What do you love most about dancing?
The first dance class I attended was in kindergarten in my hometown Taoyuan City, Taiwan. I was five. Simply, I felt joy and fun when I was moving with the rhythm. I found confidence when moving my body, and I didn’t know I would be a professional dancer like I am right now. It is somehow the confidence and passion I found in dance that kept me dancing.
Who influenced you as a person and dancer and what is your dance philosophy?
I have always felt very lucky that there are numbers of people who inspired me so much and shaped me to be a better person and dancer, most notable is Xiao-Xiong Zhang, who was my dance mentor in high school and college, he is currently the dean of Department of Dance of Taipei National University of the Arts, where I attended. My Dance philosophy is that dance is body movement with or without rhythm, it is the most meaningful and direct connection between your mind and body.
What were the main challenges you have encountered? What are the greatest sacrifices you made in the name of the dance?
The main challenges I have encountered were finding a good balance between my career and personal life, as I need to put almost 100% focus on my work in order to meet my standard, and my personal life is as important as that. Therefore, I’ve been constantly jogging between two of them, and some sacrifices needed to be made to accomplish one another.
The Bessie Award organization said: “For bringing to life a lost Martha Graham solo from 1933, masterfully inhabiting the earthy, percussive, and fluid movements of pelvis and torso, and embodying the very essence of Graham’s ecstatic vision.”
Can you tell us something about when you joined the Martha Graham Dance Company?
After I gave birth to my daughter and my second audition, I joined the Company. I still have a vivid memory of the first year in the company, especially the backstage scene. The dancers were rushing to get their quick-change done for the next ballet they were about to perform, while I was pumping milk out of my breast!
If you want to be a good dancer, you have to work very hard. You will have a lot of pain and stress and you just have to deal with it by yourself.” – PeiJu Chien-Pott
You received the Bessie Award for the best performance in Martha Graham’s Ekstasis. What did it mean to you?
It is a huge honor, and it meant a world to me, but at the same time, there’re certain responsibilities that I needed to carry on, like constantly pushing and challenging myself to broaden my view and horizon, and I’d say it’s an investment to my future.
Taiwanese dancer Chien-Pott is known for her striking lines and visceral power in both Graham and contemporary works. Her outstanding performance made her won the Bessie Award
What does a dancer have to take into consideration to achieve great goals?
Discipline, and stay alert and open, like a dry sponge has the ability to absorb.
How important is discipline? How much time do you spend on training for a week? Do you practice any kind of meditation?
Discipline is everything, it is like the spine of a body, which makes the whole body aligned and holding together. In performance season, I train seven hours a day; during offseason, in order to stay in shape, besides taking regular dance technique classes (Martha Graham technique), I do cross-training, such as Bikram yoga, swimming. I meditate often before going to sleep with my daughter, and I meditate before getting on stage to settle down my nerves.
She is described as “one of the greatest living modern dancers” and “the most dramatically daring and physically chameleon-esque Graham dancer of her generation”
Can you share with us any meaningful story or moment from the backstage of your career?
Ms. Martha Graham came to my dream the night before I premiered Errand into the Maze in New York City. That is my first major ballet I performed for the Martha Graham Dance Company.
What limits of life did ballet help you overcome? What did dance help you strengthen?
When I dance, in order to feel my body, I need to have a certain connection with the movement and my breath, it’s a teamwork of mind, body, and breath! I have to create meanings to the movements, so I can have more fun and really enjoy it. And, the process makes me be in the moment or vice versus. Dance helped me not only have physical strength, but also mental endurance and sharpness.
She was also the sole Chinese dancer in the gala program of 2019’s The Eve Project, which celebrates female empowerment.
What misconception about dancers would you like to see change?
People think that dancers don’t eat or have a strict diet. The truth is that I consume a lot more than non-dancers, especially protein, as I know my body needs that.
I was invited to perform with Taipei Crossover Dance Company (台北越界舞團). That was the first time I was invited to work with professional dancers, the first time I was treated like a professional dancer, and really it gave me the idea that that’s what I wanted to be.” – PeiJu Chien-Pott
Photos courtesy of PeiJu Chien-Pott
Featured image: Photographer: Hibbard Nash
In Andonis Foniadakis’s “ECHO” for Martha Graham Dance Company