Interview with Yuming Chiu

Our donors are an essential part of the BalletX family. We recently sat down with donor and former board member Yuming Chiu to learn more about why he supports BalletX and the arts.

Tell us a little bit about your profession, your passion, and your personality. What makes you perfectly suited to do what you do? 
I strongly believe that every person should have the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. But what does it mean to be “healthy” and “productive”? For me, not only does someone need to be healthy physically, but healthy mentally. My “day job” is actually in healthcare – I’m a marketer educating patients about how to live a long and healthy life with a disease that many people fear will cut their lives short. I love my job, but in my free time, I am passionate for individuals to keep their mental state healthy. For me, I find that opportunity in the arts.

What is your background in the performing arts? For example, can you contrast an earliest memory of a performance with a most recent memory of a performance, in any medium, and talk about why they made a lasting impression on you? 
I grew up playing a number of musical instruments and eventually pursued a degree in music focused on viola performance. I loved my years as a semi-professional musician and some of my fondest childhood memories are of me playing viola in a number of performing groups. My first memory of a symphony performance was at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. My mom and dad brought a nice picnic and we huddled under the stars listening to Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture and watching fireworks shoot out from behind the bowl. I loved the casualness of the performance and the ability to eat, chat, and snuggle with my family. I recently attended a symphony performance and it was quite the contrary. I dressed up, we sat in hard chairs, and people gave awful stares if you made any movement. I do think that this way of approaching music will not survive in the long-term as we’ll see fewer and fewer individuals desire to attend as they may not feel accepted. Regardless, I do believe that organizations like BalletX are re-engaging people at all levels and making the arts approachable.

Before discovering BalletX, what was your relationship with ballet specifically and dance in general? 
When I was struggling with posture while playing viola, my teacher recommended that I take a couple ballet courses. Oh was I a hot mess – just imagine a 20 year old college student, who struggled to get workout tights on, attempt to leap across a room filled with all female students who clearly had practiced ballet at a young age. And yet oddly, I found the class fun and enjoyable. Was I a dancer prior to this? If you consider wedding dancing a category – sure.

How did discovering BalletX change your relationship to ballet and dance and can you tell us about the first time you saw the company? What about it stuck with you? 
BalletX was EVERYTHING that I experienced at the Hollywood Bowl as a child. The ballet was approachable. The music was easy to fall in love. The material was short enough to understand, but long enough to grip your mind. And the organization was a small family. I remember having a feeling in my stomach where I wanted to join the dancers on stage – and that has rarely happened in my life. And I just got hooked.

Here at BalletX, we’re often curious about the evolution of our audience from a single ticket buyer to a subscriber to a volunteer and/or donor. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey – what was the path you took from being a first-time audience member to becoming a donor and board member? 
When I think about subscription packages, I think about 5-6 performances and a lot of headache choosing a package where you might actually enjoy the performance. You’re seeing things that you like, but also have to choose shows that you may not like.  At BalletX, there’s ALWAYS at least one number that I thoroughly enjoy on the program. Although I may not enjoy every number at every performance, I’m learning. I’m seeing something that I would never expect. And that continuous personal growth is something that makes me want to go back more and more. I’m seeing something new all the time and I decided to subscribe because I naturally wanted to watch the next performance. Eventually I wanted to support BalletX because I wanted to be a part of the growth story. Most importantly, my dollars can impact the organization as we are still relatively small when compared with other larger organizations. Over the years, I donated more and I got more connected with the company – eventually joining the board.

What about supporting BalletX has been the most rewarding, and why would you encourage your peers to become more involved in their local arts scene? 
BalletX is a local organization creating world class art with a diverse group of artists. It is so hard when I see art institutions continue to reward and promote white cisgender men within the organization and also the art itself. And yet, art is designed for every single human being. I have found the inclusive environment at BalletX a breadth of fresh air in the arts community and I would encourage people to support art institutions that not only give you joy, but also promote the social values that you desire for society. It is also so important to support local groups because it feeds back to your community. Supporting organizations that focus their attention abroad only encourages them to continue to not invest in the community you live in.

It’s been about a year or so since you moved from Philly to San Francisco. What do the two cities have most in common, and how do they most differ from each other? What do you miss most about Philadelphia? 
I miss the people the most – I built amazing relationships in Philly and I look forward to my trips back to see old friends. Both cities are relatively small and you easily run into people that you know from other organizations.

And now, for the million-dollar question… tell us what makes Philly the best city on earth? 
BalletX, of course.