Taiwan-native Kun-Yang Lin said dance is his language of choice and an art form he's loved for as long as he can remember.
“My mom says I danced in her belly,” he told NBC Out. “I started dancing as a child and never stopped.”
As a professional dancer and choreographer, Lin went on to tour the world performing his craft and shared the stage with legendary dancers, learning lessons along the way that he would later use for his own students.
“I have been very fortunate to have many mentors, or masters as I call them, in my life,” he said.
Lin strongly believes that dance has to be more than just beautiful and entertaining. “Dance has to be relevant to now and provoke some questions or stimulate conversation," he explained.
Through dance, Lin said asking big questions and assessing one's relationship with his community and the world is imperative.
While traveling and performing around the world had its appeal, Lin decided to settle down in one place after three tragic events happened in quick succession. The first was the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the second was the death of his father and the third was his brain tumor diagnosis in 2002.
“There was a turning point in my life that I learned life was not permanent,” he said. Faced with his own mortality, Lin decided to make Philadelphia his home and accept a teaching opportunity at Temple University, where he has been since 2003.
In addition to his work at Temple, Lin also runs his own contemporary dance company, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (KYL/D).
“I felt I needed to create that bridge between community and academia, so I have that ability to do that at my dance laboratory, which is what I called my dance center," he explained. Lin said he is pleased that many of his students have gone on to become teachers themselves.
KYL/D made headlines in April 2017 for its thought-provoking performance "Santuario," a response to the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last June.
“Dance is a way for me to process, but also it is a tool to reflect,” he said “The performance also honored the Pulse victims, those innocent lives that were lost.”
While discussing the power of dance, Lin stressed the ability of art to transform the artist and the audience.
"Art has the ability to make a difference in the world. It gives you that imagination and the power to go behind what you think is possible,” he concluded.
What Pride Means to Me: “Pride is a sense of celebration and recognition of who we are -- whether it is a difficult journey or just something you feel the need to share.”