Jin Yao, prima ballerina of Hong Kong Ballet, has been based in Hong Kong since 2004.
Living in the city for 11 years, Jin has blended herself well and got used to the hectic lifestyle of a Hongkonger. Aside from dancing for the company, she also runs a professional ballet school.
“I’ve got the feeling that Hong Kong is so crowded and constrained, everyone is busy struggling for a living,” says Jin. “Hence, I think I should bring some spiritual inspiration to Hong Kong people and help them unleash their true emotions.”
Jin finds Hong Kong audiences highly cultivated and more respectful to ballet than their mainland counterparts. However, they are a bit different from Europeans.
“I enjoy performing in Europe. The audience there is enthusiastic, giving us ripples of encouragement and applause. I am so moved that I am vitalized instantly. Hong Kong people are rather shy. Why not give us more of your support and let your true feelings flow?”
Jin hopes her ballet school can help ignite the aesthetics of Hong Kong people.
“We have conducted a survey and found that many people are interested in ballet. As a matter of fact, I feel quite upset as there isn’t a good place where people can relax and learn. I want to show people that ballet is a highly elegant and sophisticated form of art.”
Jin is mother to a four-month-old daughter. She says she won’t be a tiger mom. Two or three activities for her child would be more than sufficient.
“I believe that parents should ask themselves whether what they’re doing is good for their children or they sign up so many classes for their children simply for reasons of vanity. My husband and I simply want our daughter to be happy and be able to get along well with others.”
She believes parents are the primary role models of their children, and she is grateful for the education she has received from her parents.
“Children are our reflections. I am inspired by my parents who are passionate dancers and they never give up.”
In fact, her parents never wanted her to become a professional dancer. They knew it is not an easy career.
At the age of 10, Jin begged her parents to let her apply at the Beijing Dance Academy. Before that, her mother had been teaching her for three to four years.
“Initially I did the folk dance only, but the teacher at the academy asked me to try ballet as well as I was small. It turned out both of my applications were accepted. My mother picked ballet for me as it can lead dancers to the global stage,” Jin recalls.
“I came to love ballet, too, and the white tutu looked beautiful.”
Learning ballet is an arduous task involving tedious and meticulous practices of stretching and skipping.
“Now I realize how I lucky I was because I was able to receive formal and professional training at that time. Training is very important for professional ballet dancers as it equips them with a strong foundation for the future.”
Jin graduated from the academy in 1997 and joined the National Ballet of China, considered as the country’s best ballet company.
Given her formal training and natural talent, it didn’t take long before Jin gained recognition. In 2002, she won a gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition.
The competition was conducted in a park, which was a challenging stage for dancers.
“The sun was so bright at noon, so the judges were wearing sunglasses, sitting under the shade of umbrellas,” she recalls. “Dancers were no longer competing with each other in terms of skill, but of will.”
Performing in ballet dramas requires not only sophisticated dancing skills but also tests a dancer’s aesthetic qualities.
“Outstanding dancers should have a strong foundation in literature as they have to master the script. They also have to understand the music very well.”
After that, Jin’s career progressed smoothly, but she encountered a major setback three years ago. She accidentally broke her ankle. It took her more than half a year to recover.
“Overcoming injuries is like a battle. I believe that I have a long way to go and I still want to make improvements and achievements in ballet, so I have never thought of giving up.”
Jin says no one can really assist you in ballet. “Teachers can train you and the audience can give you support. However, when the curtains are pulled back, it’s only you standing on the stage.”
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 30.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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