From Taiwan to Texas and Texas to NYC. EMD sits down with Mindy Lai to talk about her professional dance career, life in the big city, and her best advice for those following a similar path.
MA: What is your very first dance memory?
ML: A competition, in dance class, of who can jump the highest and quietest in parallel position.
MA: When you moved from Taiwan to Texas, what do you remember as your first experience in your new home?
ML: When we arrived in Texas, we didn't live in a house right away. We stayed in an apartment for a while until my parents bought. First experience... Being poked by the nails under the carpet that holds the carpeting down on the edges! Totally forgot until now!
MA: Everyone has a different path to a professional dance career. What was yours? Is this a career you always knew you'd like to pursue?
ML: Being a professional dancer was not always in my career plan. It was something that kept growing positively into my life. It kept me interested, and challenged me in ways that nothing else could. I actively craved for it, though it took up so much of my time and meant that I couldn’t hangout with my friends after school or on the weekends. I am sure my parents began to see signs as I put a pause on other hobbies, while dance stuck around consistently. I didn't even consider dance as a career, in general, until I decided to go to college to pursue a degree in it! I think deciding to pursue dance in college made things “real” for me because it meant that I am personally and monetarily, investing in my craft. Dance has brought so much joy in my life; it would be selfish of me to keep it to myself. Why not be a professional dancer, travel the world, perform, teach and share one of my most valued possessions!
MA: If you could write a letter to your 18 year old self, about to leave for college, what kind of advice would you tell yourself?
ML: I think I’d create a list.
1. Keep your chin up, it is not going to be easy.
2. When you think you’ve made it, keep climbing higher.
3. Enjoy the journey, not just the results.
4. Thank your parents everyday.
MA: After living in New York City for so many years, what do you like to do or where do you like to go to unwind and relax?
ML: ohhhh…. Good one! There’s so much to do in the city, but if I’m forced to pick I’d say walking. I know some might not consider that “relaxing”, but I think of “relaxing” as a state of mind. When I’m walking around, I am not expected of anything. Also, I like walking around because I always see new things I want to add to my list to explore later, whether it’s a place to eat or shop!
MA: What has been your most memorable moment with Elisa Monte Dance so far?
ML: There are so many hilarious moments that just popped up in my head I can’t even comprehend it all. So I’ll take this one on a more serious route. My most memorable moments in EMD so far have been the circles we do pre-show with the whole company. Thinking about the circling takes me back to each place we’ve traveled and performed at.
MA: A little bird told me you're about to take a trip to Taiwan! What are you most excited to do?
ML: EAT, EAT, EAT! Oh, and see some of my lovely family members. =]
MA: Is there someone, dancer or not, that has greatly impacted who you are and what you do today? How so?
ML: There can’t be just ONE person, because it’s both of my parents. They’re a team, my team.
MA: Do you have any pre and/or post performance rituals you like to follow?
Pre-Performance: I like to be by myself and visualize the movements after trying them out onstage. Then as I take my place backstage, I close my eyes and focus in.
Post-Performance: Let out my hair, because it’s always so tight.
MA: When you're on break from rehearsal, what have you found to be the best way to stay active and in shape?
ML: Ballet, ballet, ballet! I love ballet, so I like to take classes as much as possible when we’re on break and every now and then I’ll squeeze in a run and plank for my life.
MA: Now on to more pressing information...you're hosting a dinner party and you can invite any 3 people, dead or alive. Who would you invite?
ML: Taylor Swift (duh!), Penelope Disick, and the prince of Sweden
MA: If you could perform any choreography (besides Elisa's or Tiffany's) anywhere in the universe, what would you choose?
ML: I would LOVE to do anything Jerome Robbins in whichever universe he’d like me to be in.
MA: And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to anyone, not just dancers, planning on moving to New York City, what would you say?
ML: Don’t settle once you get here, go get what you want!