Oliver Nie, Photo: Rodney Atienza

Oliver Nie

Oliver Nie started dancing when he was four or five years old, chosen to learn dance because of his good grades, moral character, and talent. When he was just 15, he was one of only five students in a city of two million accepted by the Art Institute of Hunan Teachers' College. A classical dance major, Mr. Nie studied Chinese opera, Chinese music (vocal and instrumental), folk dance, Western ballet, drama, make-up, costume design and construction, set design and construction, and basic kung fu. When the Provincial Ensemble traveled to Beijing for the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Nie was one of four students from his department chosen for this trip. From there, he was sent on a national tour and traveled throughout the country for nearly a year performing in every major city in China.

At each stop of the tour, the troupe conducted dance workshops, teaching what they knew and learning the regional dances. Mr. Nie, who was in charge of this instructional part of the tour, learned directly from minority groups throughout China about their local dances, and also about conditions of society. Later, he studied English and attended Wuhan University.

Mr. Nie eventually gave up his professional role as a dancer and volunteered to direct culture and arts groups. During the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to the countryside to be trained in labor and to work as a peasant. He stayed there 10 months. While on the commune, he also taught dance and singing. During the summer of 1969, a flood on the Yangtze River submerged all the fields. People were starving, suffering from disease, and sleeping out in the open on top of dikes of mud. Mr. Nie led performance teams to the flood-ravaged area, where they performed for the victims. Mr. Nie saw that the show brought the people more than food and water - it brought enjoyment and hope. He has never forgotten the power of his art at that time.

Mr. Nie returned to Changsha as a high school teacher and became the director of the students' culture and arts group in the place where he used to be a student. He came to Philadelphia in 1994. In 1999, he began to teach Chinese dance again in Philadelphia Chinatown.

Related Information

Folk Arts and Multicultural Education (FAME)