I doubt there are many people inside China who don’t know the name of Yang Liping–a Bai dance artist who grew up in the most ethnically diverse province in China and who has been affectionately nicknamed the Peacock Princess.

Though she has been touring countries like Singapore, Russia, the United States, and Canada for years, she remains little known to the Western world. (Well, not so true now: see articles about her in the New York Times, the Japan Times, and the Sydney Morning Herald.)

The way she talks about dance is how others would talk  about the love of their life.


Watching her perform in the Soul of Peacock (watch the video here), I couldn’t help but think that she might be even more graceful than an actual peacock. You may think they look like this:


Which they do, sometimes.

But, in Yunnan province, home to both the Peacock Princess and the green peacock, they might also look like this:


This was taken in March this year, when two peacocks broke out of a zoo in Kunming, went on the lam, and decided to go crashing a class at the Yunnan University. They flew over rooftops and walls like the majestic birds that they are:

peacocks in yunnan

And enjoyed the adulation and worship by their subjects:

peacocks in yunnan

Until their caretakers found out about the jailbreak, tracked the delinquents down, and hauled them back, like this:


You can almost hear them squeak in protest and whine, like kids caught playing hooky.


Remind you of anyone?


Maybe that’s why she’s so successful. Yang Liping’s dance captures not just the elegance and beauty of the peacock, but also its playfulness and authenticity–something that can only come from years of close observation and hard training.


Like she said,

Nature is simply the best teacher.

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