Text and photographs by Duan Wei
Originally from Shanghai, Shi Jingxin’s father moved to inland Lanzhou City, Gansu Province in western China, because of a job transfer in the 1970s. There, he met Shi’s mother and fell in love. In 1982, Shi was born in Lanzhou. Six years later, her father’s job brought the family back to Shanghai.
Shi’s attachment to water is implicit. She only lived in Lanzhou for her first six years, and many early childhood memories have faded, but her impression of the Yellow River is still fresh. And her home in Shanghai is only 500 meters away from a beach in Jinshan, the southernmost district of the city. In the eyes of Shi, the sea has become an irreplaceable part of her life. “Water is mysterious,” Shi contemplates. “It is soft but powerful like human life.”
It seems that another powerful thing inspired her to become a dancer. Her parents are employed in chemical work and nobody in her family is engaged in anything artistic. But after she was introduced to dance at age eight, she could never be pulled away again.
Over the years that followed, Shi’s mother accompanied her on the weekly trip between the Children’s Palace in Shanghai proper and their home in Jinshan. The trip was so long that they had to take an old-fashioned train. In the early days of dance training, a few of Shi’s friends joined her, but years later, only she remained.
When Shi was recruited by Shanghai Dancing School at the age of 12, it marked the beginning of her professional dancing career. Unlike other young girls, she seldom strayed into adolescent rebellion. Shi recalled a story in this vein. Especially bad news for a dancer, she once realized her weight was increasing too fast. She vowed to diet several times, but could not control her appetite. One weekend, she happened past a training room, where Shi noticed one of her classmates practicing silently. She was so inspired that began to spend almost all her spare time practicing - and her weight has never been an issue since.