When Emily Liew first got to Chapel Hill, it didn’t quite feel like home. Instead of going out and meeting new friends, Liew often found herself alone in her dorm room.
But when she first saw Flying Silk perform, Liew said everything changed.
“Everything looked so beautiful, so in sync, and I knew I wanted to join,” Liew said. “Ever since I came into Flying Silk my sophomore year, it was like my whole social group expanded. I knew all these people, I started going out more, going out to eat, just doing anything.”
Since its creation in 2012, Flying Silk, the only traditional Chinese dance team on campus, has evolved from a structured and highly-choreographed group of dancers into a group more focused on cultural enrichment and passion.
Three years after first falling in love with the dancing, Liew, now a senior, is serving as the group’s publicity chair.
“I joined my sophomore year, and honestly, I wished I’d joined earlier,” Liew said.
And Liew isn’t the only one whose college experience has been transformed by Flying Silk. Junior Alyes Chen, the group’s design chair, had a similar path to joining the team.
“I was sort of a social recluse freshman year," Chen said. "My friend actually dragged me out to one of the events and I remember being struck by how pretty the colors were. One of the big things that attracted me was how effortlessly the dancing and the silks were interacting with each other, and it didn’t seem like people there had like hours and hours of dance training, but it still looked so graceful and beautiful. Their performance was top notch, even though their choreography wasn’t hard. The fact that you can make something not hard look so beautiful was what attracted me.”
According to Chen, the beauty of the team is in its laidback nature. Instead of focusing on difficult choreography, the team places an emphasis on enjoying the performance.
“We’re not all caught up in the semantics of how to execute a dance move, so it’s easier to go and have fun while you’re doing it,” Chen said. “There’s a beauty in learning a difficult dance move, but that’s not where we’re really focused.”
Chen, Liew and the team’s other 14 members meet twice a week to practice routines for their upcoming performances, but even outside of practice, it’s hard to find a time when the team is apart.
“Any perk of being in a small group is that we’re incredibly close,” Chen said. “Bonding is really easy for us.”
Chen said she’s glad to have teammates she can always count on for advice, whether it’s dancing, academics or just about life.
Lindsey Molina, the team’s co-captain, agrees.
“What makes Flying Silk special to me is the family dynamic,” Molina said. “Navigating UNC's large campus and interacting with new faces each day can be overwhelming at times, but joining Flying Silk has allowed me to make a smaller, more comfortable niche for myself. I am always at ease when I go to practice and spend time with my team. My closest friends are ones that I've made after joining.”
When Flying Silk takes the stage in the Mid-Autumn Festival Gala on Sept. 30, Molina knows that the team’s passion for their dancing, and each other, will be on full display.
“I always feel such a rewarding feeling after our performances, knowing that the choreography is entirely student-driven,” Molina said. “We're spending hours and hours practicing because we want to be there – not because we have to.”
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