Former Taiwanese ballet dancer goes modern with Seattle Dance Project

By Ryan Pangilinan

Like many Asian Americans, Edwaard Liang spent a part of his youth dabbling in various performing arts, whether it was playing the violin or being involved with martial arts. Yet, it was dance that has allowed him to build a respectable career as one of the most critically acclaimed ballet dancers and choreographers in the world.

“Basically, my parents and my sister [contributed to my career] — they were the ones who opened me to ballet,” recalled Liang.

Originally from Taipei, Liang spent his formative years in California and started ballet when he was 5 years old. In 1989, he entered the School of American Ballet.

Edwaard Liang (Photo by NYC Ballet)

“For me … I think that anybody in the performing arts — especially dance choreographers — are really lucky that we get to do what we get to do. Period,” said Liang. “Any [job] where you’re still creative and you get to do what you [want] to do” is very fortunate, said Liang.

“I don’t really think about my resume or my accomplishments,” he said. However, that does not mean he doesn’t work hard. In fact, he works very hard. In 2009, Liang premiered five ballets worldwide.

“When you start ballet as a child, you start developing a certain work ethic,” he said.

Liang’s tough-as-nails approach from fielding rides to balancing out the normalcy of childhood with a burgeoning career has won him accolades such as one of the “Top 25 to Watch” by Dance Magazine in 2006. He is also a member of the Nederlands Dans Theater 1, which is how he discovered his passion for choreography.

Though Liang’s talent has taken him all over the world, he’s held ties with Seattle. He started with the Pacific Northwest Ballet a number of years ago. His piece, “Flight of Angels,” has been performed by several companies. A notable company is the Seattle Dance Project, which has invited Liang back this year for its Project Three show, which runs Feb. 5 through Feb. 6.

Liang’s entry for the show is alongside those of other admired choreographers such as Kent Stowell, James Canfield, and Betsy Cooper.

When it comes to the choreography, Liang finds influences from his own heritage.

“There’s no way of denying my culture, my heritage, or who I am,” he said.

Following his short stint in Seattle, Liang will next go to Russia to oversee another one of his works.

Despite retiring from the performing world as a ballet dancer, Liang has found choreography as a gratifying medium in which to express his creativity.

“Once a dancer, always a dancer, and when you hear beautiful music or when you see something inspiring, you want to get up and try it yourself and learn something,” he said.

“For me, I don’t want it to sound strange or egotistical in anyway, but I’ve done what I’ve wanted to accomplished as a dancer. As a dancer, you can only dance for so long … but I really found my true passion in choreography. When you find something that you really love to do, you want to jump headfirst into it.” (end)

For more information on Seattle Dance Project’s presentation of choreographer Liang’s works on Feb. 5 and Feb. 6, visit www. For more information on Liang, visit

Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at

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