Senior Staff Writer
This past summer, Linn Molin, a first-year dance major at the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), danced as part of the JChen project.
The J CHEN PROJECT is a contemporary dance company based in New York City and run by Jessica Chen, a dancer and choreographer. Chen, a Chinese-American, created the J CHEN PROJECT in 2008 in order to deconstruct cultural identity in contemporary American society through dance.
Chen first met Molin when she taught a master class at Molin’s high school Orange County School of Arts. A master class is a specialized course taught by an expert in a particular dance style.
When Molin graduated high school, Chen reached out and offered her a position in her mentorship program, which teaches young dancers how to step into the professional dance environment.
At the program, Molin, along with three other talented dancers, lived in New York and performed in the mentorship program as professional dancers. The dancers took dance classes, went to auditions, and rehearsed for a dance film, the culminating project of the program.
“We studied with her company as if we were a part of it, like apprentices, but we weren’t,” Molin explained to The Bottom Line (TBL).
The final film was inspired by the four elements of Greek cosmology: fire, water, earth, air. Chen studied each girls’ dance style and matched them to represent a particular element. As a result of the project, Molin (who performed as earth) and the other dancers learned how to work with a choreographer and videographer. In addition, the dancers worked under the pressure of a short time frame.
“It was a really cool collaborative process,” Molin reflects on the experience.
When asked why she enjoyed dancing, Molin responded, “I like how freeing it is.”
Through her experience with the J CHEN PROJECT, Molin realized that she wanted to pursue dancing as a career.
“I would wake up in the morning and actually be so excited to start the day,” she said.
Though dancing has taken her across the country, Molin stated that UCSB’s dance community is her home. During the Freshman Summer Start Program, Molin quickly bonded with the upperclassmen.
She noted, “Coming here, it felt like home in a way that I haven’t felt before.”
Molin was inspired to attend UCSB when Chen told her about her experience at the school.
“Hearing [Chen] talk about the dance program always just made me interested in it.” And, of course, the proximity to the beach didn’t hurt.
UCSB’s program is modern dance oriented and a theater dance program, so it explores and breaks the boundaries of dance. The choreography is experimental and the dancers are not held back by technique-based restraints — there are no “rules” about what they can and cannot do.
Molin noticed that many of her professors at UCSB focused on what she wanted to explore, still enforcing technique while allowing her to integrate her own ideas.
“It gives us a chance to grow as creative artists,” she told TBL.
Molin is currently working on a collaborative choreography project with professor Christina Sanchez. In the project, the seven dancers (including Molin) practice together and individually. During their solo sections, they get a chance to choreograph their own routine based around a valuable moment in their life, all while incorporating other art forms such as music, spoken word, and more.
For her solo, Molin is working with an actor to explore women’s rights and equality through movement. With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, being able to express her emotions is very therapeutic.
“I’ve never been great with words, so [dancing is] my form of communication,” she said.
When she isn’t dancing, Molin can be found enjoying music, rock climbing, or going to the beach. Molin explained that she had never really had the chance to explore things other than dance, so she is making the most of her time at UCSB.