It’s jarring to love an art form–dance, movies, novels, whatever–and then realize that you don’t see yourself in it. When I first became interested in ballet, that was exactly how I felt: I was astonished by how beautiful it was, how much it could say, and was surprised by how much I loved it, instantly. Then I wondered where all the dancers who looked like me were. There is a natural comfort, I think, that comes from knowing who you know you are and seeing a dancer or artist who looks like you–or who comes from the same ethnic or racial background as you. It is a way of knowing that this too is within your reach, even if the connection is purely aesthetic, and has no real connection to what you yourself could physically accomplish. It’s about possibility.
That said, I’m inaugurating a series of posts on Asian and Asian American ballet dancers. The first such dancer that really caught my attention was Zhong Jing Fang, a corps dancer with American Ballet Theatre.
Fang was a Prix de Lausanne winner in 2000; prior to that, she trained mainly at the Shanghai Ballet School, having been one of 18 selected out of a pool of 2,000 students at ten years old (see her practicing her Black Swan fouettes here). She’s been with ABT since 2003, and has been in the corps since.
I wish I could say more about her dancing, but I haven’t seen her outside of youtube. Alas. Luckily she is well represented on said website.
Dancing the Diana variation at 16 years old.
A really wonderful video of Fang dancing a variation from Raymonda in all her long-legged loveliness here.
Again, I wish I could find more information about her, but outside of her Gaynor Minden spokeswoman role (see below), I couldn’t find much. I do recall an interview with her that said that upon coming to the US to dance, she was very homesick for her parents. In years to come, I would love a chance to see her dancing more roles outside of the corps.