Zhixhuan (Miki) Zhu, MFA in Dance ’23: Infinite Infant

This is part of a series commemorating this year’s cohort of Duke’s MFA in Dance. Learn more about the program and its 2023 graduates here.

Infinite Infant

Miki Zhu is a ferocious dancer. After a rigorous conservatory-style training in China, she joined the MFAEIP at Duke to follow her artistic and intellectual curiosity. Much of her focus had been dedicated to her Buddhist practice of meditation, and she wondered how, and if, these two practices could ever meet.

As she followed a pathway of wonderous artistic experimentation, Miki settled on the thesis project Infinite Infant, a duet of sorts that foregrounded an adapted spiritual practice as a methodology for creating a performance ritual that deconstructed the idea of a theatrical performance. The work brought forth Zhu’s dance of reincarnation, filled with rich poetry of visualizations to aid the moving minds and bodies:

“As the autumn rain falls, refreshing droplets cleanse the chilled earth, invigorating your senses. You stand amidst the rain, embracing your sensation as it reawakens your being. Envision yourself as a humble red mushroom (…) as it extends its roots deep into the mud. (…). Begin with a single mushroom that takes shape in your mind’s eye, then broaden your visualization to encompass thousands of mushrooms sprouting, decaying, and journeying throughout your body.”

The project of Infinite Infant cultivated novel methodologies to engender embodied strategies, captivating movement practices along turtles in Duke Gardens, attuning oneself to a dance partner (in the case of this duet, to graduating Dance major Nicole Schwartz) and expanding what you thought the body could do by dedicated, rigorous and disciplined attention and awareness.

In her thesis, Miki Zhu announced her revolution in dance to (re-) introduce spirituality into the
practice of professional dance and performance, which has often been marginalized,
suppressed, ridiculed, simulated or rendered powerless on dance stages around the world.
Building on the practices of established artists, she charts her own unique course as an
extraordinary moving mind and artist-researcher.

—Michael Kliën

Professor of the Practice of Dance

Performance of spiritual dance

Thesis Project

Infinite Infant is a forty-minute live performance situated in a cosmic underworld. Through dual movements, two entangled feminine spirits share and unveil the infinite reincarnations that elevate love. This project communicates that, according to Chinese Buddhism, people have previous lives and might live with entirely different identities, such as gender, sexuality and ethnicity, as well as physical forms such as bodies, voices and looks. Yet, every previous life is erased from the memories of the deceased when they reincarnate at the River Styx. To cross the river, they must drink a bowl of Mengpo soup that obliterates all the memories. However, Infinite Infant believes that people still carry the traces of previous lives in their deep souls and can mobilize their bodies in movements for evocation.

About Zhixhuan (Miki) Zhu

Zhixuan (Miki) Zhu was born in China in 1999. Zhu is an artist, movement explorer and spirituality devotee. Born in a traditional Buddhist family, she was fascinated by the occult since an early age, and her dance is inspired by it. For example, her work Simulated Summoning presented an evil serpent god possessing her body.

In 2021, she graduated from Beijing Normal University with a B.F.A. in Dance and minor in Literature. During her undergraduate years, she received systematic dance training including modern dance, ballet, contact improvisation, Chinese classical dance, folk dance, Laban and Alexander Technique. These extensive dance training experiences have made her a dancer with a unique movement style and spiritual focus.

Zhu contests dance practices that have largely repressed spirituality through movements that aim to repair these innate connections. Infinite Infant, as her thesis action, is an important experiment to evoke the spirituality.


Why Duke University?

“I’m drawn to the inclusiveness of the Dance Program—lots of people from different countries and with different personalities and interests. Also, the interdisciplinary component fascinates me. I think this is a new concept in dance, and I’m excited to see the influences it has on the future of the discipline.”

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