Jessica Kung – Dancer, Foodie, & Program Chair for Annual Nightmarket Event

New York University, New York, NY

I see a very bright future for Taiwanese America in the sense that 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans like myself and many of my classmates haven’t even begun to truly show how unique and amazing Taiwanese culture really is…

Who are you?

I am an aspiring dancer/foodie currently living life in New York City and majoring in Nutrition at New York University. I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA and still miss the West Coast. I have been dancing my entire life but first started off my performing life as a rhythmic gymnast at age seven.  I completed in the Junior Olympic Rhythmic Gymnastics National Championships at age twelve and placed third all around in my age division. During my gymnastics career, I was also fortunate enough to have trained at the Olympic Training center in Lake Placid, NY. After middle school, I found my new passion in life, dance, and went to an arts high school, School of the Arts, and majored in dance.  There, I was not only able to work with many amazing teachers and choreographers in the Bay Area, but was about to develop my own choreographic skills. As one of two seniors chosen, I choreographed a final solo and a class piece with ten of my fellow classmates which ended up winning me my school’s Choreographer’s Award, San Francisco’s Yvonne McClung Award for choreography, and the Jason Robins Dance Scholarship. When it was time to apply for college, I knew I still wanted to dance and was accepted to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for their conservatory dance program.  However after freshman year, I realized that I wanted more than just a dance career, and decided to pursue another passion of mine (food and cooking), and transferred to the nutrition department.  I currently dance more than ever, but am also learning about healthy living and I get to cook on a regular basis!

Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?

Since my freshman year at NYU, I have been involved with my school’s Taiwanese club, Taiwanese American Student Society (TASS).  Particularly, I have been Program Chair two years in a row for the club’s largest event, our annual Nightmarket, which showcases Taiwan’s famous nightmarkets. My role as Program Chair is to gather performances and create a show that showcases the best of Taiwanese culture for the enjoyment of my fellow Taiwanese and non-Taiwanese classmates. As Program Chair, I am able to utilize my dance background and am given the chance to express not only my love of performing, but also my creative and innovative backstage side. My main goal for the show this year is not just to showcase the uniqueness and specialities of Taiwanese culture, but also to show how relatable they can be. We are planning to have a past and present concept where we will show traditional and modern aspects of Taiwan, further displaying that Taiwan is everchanging and innovative, yet still always the Taiwan we know and love.

Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?

My inspiration comes from the immense pride I have for my culture.  I feel lucky to be Taiwanese American because it has greatly contributed to and better enriched my understanding and perspective of people, ideas and the world. Growing up in an environment where I was exposed to two different cultures made me the confident, strong, and proud person I am today.  And specifically, for my role as Program Chair for NYU TASS’s annual Nightmarket, my dance background and previous experience with performing, stage management, choreography, and directing gives me the foundational knowledge and skills needed to direct a large scale show like the Nightmarket and convey important messages about Taiwanese culture.

What is your vision for the organization / project and the role that it may play in the broader community?

In actuality, NYU does not have a large Taiwanese student population. Therefore, TASS Nightmarket’s main audience is in fact non-Taiwanese students, representing various cultures from around the world.  As a result, our events tend to be very educational and expose the uniqueness of Taiwanese culture for people who are not familiar with it. As a Taiwanese person, I am truly passionate about my culture and am more than proud to show it off for its specialities. But I also believe that I am a more fulfilled and cultured person because I have both my American and Taiwanese cultures.  For me, they work together. Rather than showing how different and almost far fetched Taiwanese culture is, I want to showcase that yes, it is a unique but also relatable to people of all cultures for our basic love of delicious food, rich culture, entertainment and the amazing people.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

I am extremely proud to be Taiwanese simply because of of the amazing people, food, and culture that is Taiwan. Whenever I visit during the summer, I lose myself in the Taiwanese lifestyle, which includes amazing hot pot, bubble tea, nightmarkets, shopping, nightlife, convenience of everything, and most importantly, the extremely friendly and hospitable people who always make me feel welcomed.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

I see a very bright future for Taiwanese America in the sense that 2nd generation Taiwanese Americans like myself and many of my classmates haven’t even begun to truly show how unique and amazing Taiwanese culture really is in this country and the world.  Because I have both American culture from being born and raised in San Francisco, CA and Taiwanese culture from my parents who immigrated from Taiwan in me, I saw the ironic beauty in how well they work together.  There are many differences between the two, yet somehow complement each other.  In a sense, I hope that all Taiwanese Americans and people who have more than one culture in them all realize how lucky they are to have these two rich cultures in them.

Any additional information you would like to share?

Here is the video to my senior solo I choreographed and performed at my high school’s School of the Arts 2009 Dance Concert.

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