Liane Aung, who just joined Whim W’Him late this spring, has been involved with dance for virtually her whole life.
Growing up in Southern California, Liane did competitive dance, jazz, ballet, tap. “I was not,” she says, “very educated in the dance world as a whole.” And she adds that she, “disliked the competitive nature of competitive dance.” To follow high school, she applied to college in dance, thinking she would change her major once she was there. But during her freshman year at University of California, Irvine, 45 minutes from her home town, she “fell in love with dance. I had great professors, and they opened my eyes to a different kind of dance world.” (Liane’s story reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon that we had on our refrigerator for years: in theater a mother is saying to her kid, “It’s a dance, honey, nobody wins.”)
While at UCI, she worked with Donald McKale (“named by the Dance Heritage Coalition one of America’s Irreplaceable Dance Treasures: the first 100,” as noted on the university website) and became part of the school’s pre-professional ensemble, dancing in his Rainbow Round My Shoulder, and Songs of the Disinherited.
At UCI she continues, “I was taught to be a professional dancer in a professional setting, how to conduct myself.” Being a dance major, Liane had to take kinesiology and dance history, “but I only realized their true importance later, after my career started.” It is always interiguing how specific the culture of each different milieu is, even in a field as relatively close-knit as dance, and how the habits, assumptions and special knowledge of each new sub-culture has to be learned and often the import of new material or attitudes only becomes clear long after.
After graduation, 2 obstacles kept Liane in Southern California.
First, although she was auditioning on the East Coast and was about to leave, when she got a stress fracture in her 5th metatarsal. The injury “made me question lots of things.”
Second, Backhausdance in Orange County, California had already offered a her a contract. Liane hadn’t been sure of her answer—there were so many other possibilities. But after the fracture, the company’s director, Jenny Backhaus, said, “I would love to have you still. Take all the time you need. You can begin in October, but take your time. I know how it can pull on your emotional/mental state.”
This generous offer came at the perfect moment and the next stage of Liane’s career was launched. Two years later, she was preparing for a new (and their first) evening-long piece, “with great joy and loving the process.” She was, as she says, “Stoked.” Then two days before the show, with her photo on all the publicity, Liane sustained a spiral fracture of the 5th metatarsal. This time, she says, “I was in a better mental state to deal with it.” She continued her career with Backhausdance for 5 years.
After her time with Backhausdance, Liane left Southern California for a 3 month trip to Europe. Her sister was in northern Sweden, and she knew people in Frankfurt, London and the Netherlands. In Europe, she took classes, met people at auditions, and was offered places to stay with friends and friends of friends of friends, eventually also visiting Malmo in southern Sweden, Copenhagen, Berlin, Poland, London, Paris, and Rome, exploring the European dance world.
Later on, Liane went to New York a few times, to the A.P.A.P.