The Cultural Revolution scarred many people emotionally and, often, physically - but for United States-based Yin Mei, the ugly reality of her childhood nurtured some of the most beautiful dreams, which eventually transformed her from a fighter into a dancer. 'When I think about that era, I don't try to figure out whether it was right or wrong. It's part of my life and I am more interested in how it made me into who I am,' says Yin, who owns the Yin Mei Dance Company and works as a professor of dance at Queens College, in New York. Yin was a toddler in 1966, when the Cultural Revolution erupted, and as a child she prac- tised dancing among the many Big Letter Posters, the public denunciations of those considered anti-revolutionary. When her mother told her that some of the posters were about her father, a construction engi- neer, her life turned upside down and Yin retreated into another world - dance. When she saw the body of a classmate's mother, who had committed suicide in a wheat field, she dealt with the shock by thinking up a dance involving a woman rolling and twisting as she dissolved herself in bright moonlight. Haunted by the image of a friend's brother who had been beaten by Red Guards, Yin relieved her dread in the falling Henan snow by imagining the world as a stage on which she could dance forever. 'I kept daydreaming like this so I could hide from the bitterness of reality,' says Yin. 'People were fighting each other; the defeated were forced to march on the street with others throwing ink bottles at them. For a long time, I felt life should be like this and the only reason I had been born was to join the comrades to fight the enemies.' When she realised she was too small to be considered one of Mao's soldiers, Yin stood on tiptoes, stretched out her arms and spun round and round. In her mind, she had changed into the 'white-haired girl': the daughter from a poor peasant family who fought a brutal landlord in one of the Eight Model Plays, the only ballets allowed at the time. She was selected for the propaganda dance troupe at her primary school and when Luoyang, in Henan province, established a troupe to perform the Eight Model Plays, 13-year-old Yin became the first 'white-haired girl' to perform in her hometown. From there she embarked on a journey: to the provincial dance troupe of Henan and then, in 1981, she became one of the first principal dancers of the Hong Kong Dance Company. In 1985, with a grant from the Asian Cultural Council, she went to study modern dance in New York. While studying at New York University, Yin started to discover the beauty of traditional Chinese culture, considered the origin of sin during the Cultural Revolution. She now incorporates many elements of tai chi, I-Ching, even the poetry from the Tang and Song dynasties into her dancing. She is planning to offer a course called 'Chineseness', in which she will talk about the country's culture, from the ancient to the present. The Cultural Revolution is sure to be part of it - along with her own journey. 'Mao said in one of his poems that we should be brave enough to 'hug the moon in the sky and ride the turtle in the ocean'. I think he meant there is nothing that is impossible as long as you try,' says Yin.