Spotlight: Mei-Ling Murray, Program Director of Movement Exchange
What is your background in dance? I am predominantly classically trained, beginning with ballet since age 5. I studied under American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. I attended the University of Arizona on scholarship for dance, where my focus turned more towards contemporary and modern dance. I am currently a company member for Project B dance company in the San Francisco Bay Area. After college, I was adamant about traveling, and for 4 years, took off each year independently on around-the-world trips. It was during this time abroad, that my definition of dance completely transformed. My focus on dance became less of a technical and artistic endeavor, and more of a cultural language. I literally walked into communities where I didn’t speak the language, and found myself with lasting friendships because of my background as a dancer. How did you get involved with Movement Exchange? I had recently returned home from a long leg of travels, and was feeling inspired as ever about how dance connected me with culture. I googled “international dance exchange” and found information about Anna and the young program she had created. Realizing she was based in Northern California, I immediately reached to out her. A few days later we spent hours over coffee connecting about our passion for dance as a tool for social change. It was magic! What is your fondest memory of your exchange? I must say it is the sisterhood that I have developed with a particular girl at Malambo Orphanage, Gabby. Her and I simply are connected. It is proof that you don’t need to be geographically close, nor from the same upbringing to be linked to another’s spirit. How do you define Dance Diplomat? A dance diplomat is someone who uses dance as a means for helping people, for seeing the world, for communicating with those from a very different background. What has Movement Exchange taught you? Movement Exchange has taught me that there is a whole world of dancers out there that want to give back! Who is your favorite choreographer? Jiri Kylian, Netherlands Dance Theatre What’s your biggest accomplishment so far? My biggest accomplishment thus far is being a part of Movement Exchange, and helping it grow. There is nothing more important to me than spreading connection, understanding, and empowerment through dance. Where’s the most exotic place you have been? India. How many languages do you speak? Which ones? English and Spanish What is one thing on your bucket list? I must spend a significant amount of time in Patagonia and Chile. What’s something most people don’t know about you? I am half Chinese, half Scotch-Irish.
What are some of your other hobbies? I play guitar and piano. I model. I hike. If you had a tagline/motto what would it be? All I need is half of a plan, and good company! What three words come to mind when you think of India? Rich. Color. Culture. Do you think Movement Exchange would be valuable in India? Why? Absolutely. There are already numerous foundations in India that are spearheading this kind of work, making dance education available to underserved communities, and developing unique ways to use dance as therapy, and community empowerment. And Movement Exchange would fit right into that! We have so much to give and LEARN from this incredible country.
Why do you dance? I dance to find my silent strength. I dance to let go. I dance to nurture my discipline and work ethic. I dance to connect with others.