Can Wang

For November, the Office of International Advisement engaged with Can Wang, a third year student in the dance program from Jinan, Shandong, China.  Read on to learn more about her love of piano and the arts, her experience as a student leader, and her advice for other international students.

Can Wang in performance

According to our sources, piano inspired your beginnings in dance. Can you tell us more about how your study of piano and dance have intertwined, and created the performer you are today? 

I started consciously being influenced and attracted by music and dance at the age of 3. I fell in love with the sound of the piano when I heard it in the kindergarten for the first time, and I told my mom that I wanted to learn it (I didn’t know the instrument is called “piano”. My mom figured it out after she went to see the piano in the kindergarten). My parents bought the piano for me when I was 4 years old, and I became the first kid that plays the piano in my neighborhood ( because neither playing instruments nor dance are popular in my neighborhood back then, but now there are more and more kids that are playing instruments and dancing). I was taking dance class in kindergarten too. When the piano and dance started to co-exist in my life, I would improvise dance for the piano music I listened to, and improvise on the piano for the dance I learned. It seemed natural to me to connect them, and they became my best friends.

Playing the piano at a young age not only enhanced my sensitivity for music, but also helped me build my patience, which are a very important skill to have for a dancer. No matter what I do—choreograph, dance or teach, patience and sensitivity for music are always there to allow me to explore deeper into the possibilities, and come up with new ideas.

You’ve have previously performed works by Andrea Miller, Helen Simoneau, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Nacho Duato, Janis Brenner, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Michael Parmenter, and Jose Limon. Did any of these experiences have a strong impact on you? And if so, how?

Those experiences are significant to my study at Julliard. Working with choreographers and studying repertoires broaden my understanding of dance. There are many reasons to dance, and dance works are made from questioning “why we dance”. Choreographers and rehearsal directors come into the studio and share their interests and questions with us, and we start to explore and develop dance works altogether. As we are on stage, the dance works become languages we use to communicate with audience.

Can Dance 2

In addition to your pursuit of contemporary dance and ballet, you have skills in Chinese traditional dance. For our readers who are not familiar with this form of dance, could you please tell us more about how it is characterized and the style? How have you worked background in Chinese Traditional dance into your work now?

When I was in China, I’ve studied Tai Chi and Chinese traditional dance. Chinese traditional dance is consisted of Chinese folk dance and Chinese classical dance. There are 6 different types in Chinese folk dance which are symbolic of each geography, climate, daily labor, agriculture and religion. Each type of Chinese folk dance has its own temperament, and a lot of the movements have specific meanings because they are manifestations of their daily life.

Chinese classical dance is a revival of ancient Chinese dance. It was mixed with the gestures and postures of Chinese martial arts and Chinese opera, and it emphasizes the use of the focus and coordination of the movement and breath. Similar to Tai chi, the movements are the result of the flow of the energy which are usually circles in different directions and dimensions.

The influence from Chinese traditional dance is strong and visible when I dance and choreograph. The movement patterns are deeply remembered by my body. As soon as my body moves, it would repeat the patterns naturally and unconsciously.

It seems that you’ve had many years of experience of working with teenage dancers in Beijing, how did you become involved with this educational outreach program? What do you like about this program?

Working with teenage dancers and performing with National Ballet of China for their annual educational outreach program are two separate activities I did in China. When I was studying at the secondary school of Beijing Dance Academy (, the National Ballet of China needed young dancers to perform with the company for their outreach program while half of the company was on tour. It was a performance we give in colleges and universities all around China. It included lecture on the history of Ballet and also history of Ballet in China, followed by the performance of excerpts from the Western and Chinese Ballet repertoires in a chronicle order. I loved the idea of bringing ballet into campuses to make it accessible for young audiences.

I began working with young dancers when I was a teenage dancer myself. My dance teacher from my hometown Jinan, has always encouraged me to help dancers who are younger than me. I’ve been going back to my teacher’s studio every summer since I was ten, and the students I’ve helped are now professional dancers studying in the secondary schools and dance academies, and working in ballet companies in China and abroad. This past summer, I created two contemporary dance solos for two 12-year-old male dancers for their school’s competition, and I rehearsed a ballet variation for two 13-year-old female dancers for their school’s showing. I’ve been learning immensely from the young dancers I’ve worked with in China. It helps me to refresh and reorganize the knowledge that has been increased in me throughout training and education from different culture. It gives me opportunities to practice my observation and communication with individual dancers, and it makes me feel grateful for the education I’ve had and also responsible for sharing what I’ve learned to the young dancers.

You were an Orientation Leader this year. What prompted you to apply? What was the best part of the orientation leader experience for you? What would you suggest to students who may like to apply to become OLs next year?


Photo by Matthew Quigley


When I was a freshman, my first impression of Juilliard was from the orientation leaders. I remember how excited and helpful they were, which made me to be an orientation leader since then.

Being an OL is amazing and challenging experience to me. I learned that I have to think about both positions of being a freshman and an OL before making a decision, so that I can really understand them before helping them with their needs. It also offers a time and space for me to discover what my strengths are as a leader and how I can function in the OL community to make the orientation successful.

To the new OLs: to understand what type of leader you are is equally important as being supportive and selfless in the OL community. Make yourself available for helping new students and let them know that you are happy to be here with them.

In addition to being an OL, you are now a colloquium mentor. What are some of the benefits of colloquium? What is something that you learned? What do you like about being a mentor?

Can Friends

Hiking with friends at Hudson Valley.

I think colloquium peer mentor serves a similar goal as the OL, which is to help first-time undergraduate students adjust their new life at Juilliard. What’s unique about being a colloquium peer mentor is that I’m connecting the faculty and new students, like a trail that connects the top and the bottom of a mountain. It’s hard to get to the mountain top while standing on the bottom and vise versa, but it becomes achievable when there’s a trail in between. I like being supportive, and I enjoy being trusted by people. It was necessary to let new students know that I’m here for them when they need me.

If you were a tour guide of your hometown, which places and what things do you think we should see and do?


My hometown is Jinan which is the capital city of Shandong Province (Shandong is also the hometown for the philosopher Confucius and the China’s First Lady Ms. Peng). Jinan is also the “city of springs” as there are 72 springs in the city. It is also why Jinan hasn’t had a subway system, because the government wants to protect the springs underneath the ground.

Can Family

Can teaching her grandma how to use an iPad.

In Jinan, you can visit the natural and historical attractions such as Bao Tu Spring, Qian Fo Mountain/Mountain of Thousand Buddha, Da Ming Lake; eat great food on Fu Rong Street; go to see acrobatic performances of Shandong Acrobatic Troupe and Quyi— a performance art consisted of narrative storytelling, staged monologue and dialogue; shopping and going to movie theaters can be a pleasant and overwhelming experience too.

What is a difference that was shocking to you when you first arrived in the US? Where is your favorite place in NYC?

As I was living in Beijing for school for many years, the tall buildings and city-like life style of NYC didn’t surprise me much. The most shocking and confusing things are the intangible things such as relearning people’s body language and facial expression, processing a different language all day long, interpreting people’s humor, trying to remember the names of people, class, food, concepts and objects, learning the rules of different social situations, understanding a different value system, rediscovering who I am in a new place…I’m still learning to understand them while I’m constantly confused by them. At the beginning, I felt overwhelmed by even the simplest things in my life, and it was so hard to catch them up. Since there hasn’t been Chinese dancers at Juilliard, I understood that it’s my responsibility to learn from the base, and to give myself time to catch things up little by little. I’ve been learning and growing immensely from this process, and I know that I’m in a place where it allows me to be patient with myself and make mistakes, so that I can calmly go through confusions and learn from mistakes.

My favorite places:

MOMA, the MET Museum, Angelika Film Center, Chelsea Market, Highline Park, Chinatown, Korean Town


Can with an ice-cream filled treat

Where do you envision yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?

In 5 years: Intensely dancing and performing in the US or Europe in order to be familiar with the operation of a professional dance world.

In 10 years: Keep deepening my discovery as a dancer and performer, get a master degree on dance in the US or Europe, to prepare myself for being a teaching artist.

In 20 years: Keep dancing in the US or Europe, and hopefully I can start teaching in China a few times a year to share what I’ve learned throughout my career.

If you were not a dancer, what do you think you would pursue instead?

When I was 4 years old, my mom asked me: “do you want to be a pianist in the future?” I said “yes of course!” Then my mom asked: “if you want to be a pianist, you will have to work hard to go to Juilliard, so that you will be a wonderful pianist to perform all over the world.” I said “oh yes, I want to go to Juilliard to be the best pianist in the world!”

In this case, I probably would pursue a career as a pianist if I didn’t dance. But I also wanted to be a diplomat when I was in elementary school because I really liked English.


Reflecting on your time here at Juilliard, what is some advice you would give new international students?

Be open to the new world and be patient with yourself.

If you make mistakes, have fun with them! They will be your teachers to guide you to a better place. And don’t forget that there are many people who are happy to help you.

Trust that your identity is your energy source and backup. It makes you become who you are today, and it’s always a reference for you while you are adjusting to a new life.

Learn everything from everywhere and everyone, not only in your class and practice room, because everyone is an artist nowadays. What defines you as an artist is how you live your life and whether you’ve developed your own life style.

Can Personal Collage








Jieming Tang

For the December 2016 edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviews Jieming Tang, a first year violin student from Hefei, China.  After years of music training in Beijing, Jieming moved to Ohio to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music ( before starting his undergraduate degree at The Juilliard School.  In addition to music and various other hobbies, Jieming is an avid photographer. Even though Jieming has been a student at Juilliard for less than a semester, he has been very engaged both on and off-campus.  Read-on to learn about Jieming!

Jieming Tang

You have played the violin since you were three years old. What do you love about the violin that has caused you to dedicate so much of your life to music?


Baby portrait, 1998

Since I picked up my first violin at a young age, music has very much been an essential part of me; in fact, I have no memory of when that wasn’t the case. As later told by my parents, they noticed my aptitude for music when I was able to sing and play nursery rhymes on the toy keyboard from memory as a one-year-old. The actual decision to study the violin, according to them, was made by myself when I picked out the picture of the violin among other instruments when asked to do so. The violin introduced me to the fantastic world of music, and it holds a special place in my heart. To me, the violin’s dynamic range, colorful timbre, and resemblance to human voice make it an extremely expressive instrument that resonates with the deepest levels of my soul.

You are originally from Hefei, China, a city that many Americans may not know about. Can you describe your home city to our readers?

I was born in Hefei, the capital city of Anhui province. It is less than 300 miles west of Shanghai and is part of eastern China. Hefei is somewhat of a “mediocre” city: its population is less than 8 million which is medium-sized by Chinese standards, and it is right between northern and southern China in terms of climate and cultural traditions. Hefei’s indistinctness makes the city not stand out as much, especially to tourists, since it lacks notable signature attractions or dishes. However, Huangshan or Yellow Mountain, the most magnificent mountain range in China, is also in Anhui and is less than 150 miles away from Hefei. More than 3 million tourists visit the mountain each year. Hefei is also becoming one of the fastest growing cities in China due to its location at the center of the most populated region of China. It is predicted that Hefei will become one of the largest central hubs in China for high speed rail and expressways in the near future. Having grown up in Hefei, I loved the busy (and sometimes chaotic) downtown, it’s numerous parks scattered around the city, the libraries, community centers, shopping malls, restaurants, amusement parks… Hefei is very much a lovable city full of history and wonders in its own way.

Above: Photos of Huangshan in Anhui Province, China

You moved from Hefei to Beijing at the age of eight to study violin at the Central Conservatory of Music. What was it like to make such a big move at such a young age?


Family portrait, 2006

During third grade, I was accepted to the Central Conservatory of Music’s ( elementary school division in Beijing, which is more than 600 miles away from my hometown Hefei. My father left his job and moved to Beijing to take care of me, while my mother stayed in Hefei to support us financially. The move to Beijing really put me out of my comfort zone, and kicked off my next chapter of life filled with adventures. It was especially difficult at first to live without my mother and her incredible cooking, but I adapted well to the big change not long after. The move to Beijing was also the first of a series of significant turning points in my life that shaped a lot of who I am. Studying at one of the top music institutes and living in the capital city of China for the first time really broadened my horizons, augmented my knowledge and skills, and further solidified my intention to dedicate my life to the art of music-making.

You came to the US in 2010 to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music. What were your first impressions of the US? Was it different than you expected?

I had always dreamed of studying abroad someday to get to know classical music and Western cultures better. I especially admired the United States with its diverse and inclusive culture, and its leadership on the world stage. In sixth grade, with the kind help of an American friend and her family, I was able to begin my next adventure by moving to Cleveland with my father, and attending the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Artist Program to further my music studies. However, my very first impressions of the U.S. were somewhat shocking and disappointing partly due to my over-expectations. With the economy recovering from the crash, the area of Cleveland where our apartment was located was troubled by failing infrastructure, bankrupt empty homes, and rather high


Recording session in Szell Library at Severance Hall, Cleveland

crime rates. Of course, I soon began to realize that one neighborhood of one city is in no way representative of an entire country. Especially after I started going to school and meeting all the wonderful people, I truly realized that there are so much more to a country than what meets the eye, and what truly makes the U.S. special is the people, society, and culture that make it up. Even though I studied English and familiarized myself with American culture before I arrived, the magnitude of culture shock was nonetheless unexpected. Everything was new and vastly different than what I had been used to, from as simple as eating breakfast to greeting others. Even trivial tasks were much more challenging due to the language barrier and cultural differences. With the help and support from the amazing people and mentors at Metro Catholic School (, my very first school in America, I was able to adapt rather quickly to my new life and to overcome the challenges.

See Jieming perform at the Cleveland Institute of Music

Since moving to NYC to attend Juilliard, have you had much time to explore the city? Outside of Juilliard, what activity or event has been your favorite?

Coming to New York City after having spent six years in Cleveland has been quite an exciting change and experience. NYC is such a wonder-filled city full of diversity and opportunities, and is constantly bubbling with energy. I still remember the first time I was walking on the New York streets, I was so overwhelmed with awe and excitement that I couldn’t stop beaming and screaming to myself. I was able to really explore and experience the city during the Juilliard Orientation–the numerous outings helped me to get familiar with navigating the city and the subway system, as well as the metropolitan lifestyle in general. Even though I haven’t had nearly as much time to venture about the city since school started, my friends and I still take time off to explore once in a while (and grabbing some great food along too!). There is simply so much to do and see in the city. If I have to pick a favorite event/activity of mine so far, I would go with Smorgasburg (, a weekend market at Prospect Park in Brooklyn where the best local food vendors come together to brighten up the days of all the foodies (yes I’m definitely one!).

If you had decided to not pursue violin or music in general, what do you think you would have studied?


Flying a model helicopter in China, summer 2011

Even though my primary passion is in music, I am also quite interested in a number of other fields. In general, I have a great appetite for anything in the realms of the sciences, and more specifically physics and computer science. My father was a computer engineer, and I have been intrigued by computers and information technology since I was very young. I would definitely be interested in pursuing computer science if I had not decided to study music. In addition, I am very passionate about aviation. Since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by the flying machines, and dreamed of one day piloting and designing my own aircraft; thus aeronautical engineering would be my other potential alternative major. Last but not least, I have a passion for photography and cinematography/filmmaking, and would consider those my potential areas of study also.

In addition to being a talented young musician, you are also a very good photographer. What inspired you to pick up a camera? What are your favorite subjects?

I have had an interest in photography ever since I could remember. However, I started to take it more seriously when my family purchased our first single lens reflex camera five years ago. I began to participate in online forums to learn from others, read books and articles, and study the works of the greats. Over the years, I have grown quite a lot as a photographer, and my works have gotten more recognized. More recently, my interests have extended to cinematography and filmmaking in general, although for those I’m still in the stage of acquiring basic knowledge and skills. I love photographing all kinds of subjects, from landscape to street to portrait. However, what I always aim to achieve when capturing any kind of photo is to always have a purpose for the photo, and to tell a story by capturing the essence of that frozen frame of history.


Hiking in Upstate New York while attending the Meadowmount School of Music in summer 2014.

When not playing music or taking photos, what do you like to do for fun or to relax?

Due to my passion for aviation, my pastime includes scratch building and flying radio-controlled scale model airplanes, helicopters, and multi-rotors. I hope to one day get a Private Pilot Certificate, and purchase or build my very own ultralight aircraft. In addition, I am a big techie, or what some would call a “nerd.” I am very much into anything that’s at the forefront of technological and scientific innovations, from electronics to theoretical physics. I also love reading books, watching movies, playing video games, and traveling.

You were recently the photographer for OIA’s International Festival. Can you describe the event to our readers? What was your reaction to watching the student performances?

The International Festival is an annual event organized by the OIA during the International Education Week ( At the Festival, students of many different cultures and ethnic backgrounds get together for an evening filled with fun, food, and eye-opening cultural performances. At this year’s International Festival, the student performances range from singing and dancing to poetry and martial arts, and represented cultures from all around the globe. It was my first time attending the event, and I was absolutely touched and inspired. As an international student, it is heartwarming to see how Juilliard’s diversity is cherished and celebrated by all, and how it continues to inspire and contribute to the arts and culture, especially during this divisive time in the country. Watching the incredible performances from various cultural origins made me appreciate the multifariousness of our common humanity, and made me an even firmer believer in the power of the arts to unite and progress humanity.

Check out more pictures from International Festival 2016 taken by Jieming, on OIA’s Facebook page (

Since starting at Juilliard in September 2016, you have been very engaged in student life such as attending many Foundations programs, working as a photographer for the Office of Student Affairs, and attending the fall Leadership Retreat. How have you benefited from these experiences?

Coming to Juilliard has absolutely been an inspirational experience, to say the least. The various programs, workshops, events, and support services are truly special and are in line with the school’s values and President Polisi’s vision of artists as citizens. With my mindset and values prior to Juilliard, I would not have been interested in being involved and engaged nearly as much, as my image of what a great artist and person truly is has changed, from solely being able to master his or her craft to being a contributing member and citizen of society who makes a difference in people’s lives. Thus, I devoted some of the time I might have locked myself in a practice room to becoming more active and engaged in school and student life. With my participation in the fantastic programs and workshops Juilliard has to offer, I am beginning to expand my perspectives, gaining knowledge and experiences, and feeling like a much more complete artist and human being.

 Now that you attended the Leadership Retreat, do you plan to apply for a leadership position? Would you encourage other students to apply? If so, why?

Prior to coming to Juilliard, and especially before the leadership retreat, I would’ve never considered leadership to be something relevant to me in any way. I initially did not want to participate in the retreat because I could in no way see myself as a leader, but decided to get out of my comfort zone as a challenge for myself. It turns out to be an incredible and transformative experience that made me look at myself and the concept of leadership differently. As said by John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” That is why I plan to apply for a leadership position, and would also encourage other fellow students to do so because it is one of the best ways one could make a difference in the world.

Interested in applying for a leadership position like Jieming?  Learn more about Juilliard Student Leadership Selection. Applications open on December 12th 2016!  Applications due Tuesday, January 31st 2017 by 11:59pm.