Category Archives: Asian and American dancers

Romeo & Juliet

Do you recognize the impossibly fuzzy dancer in this photo that I took?

It is none other than the incomparable Yuan Yuan Tan of the San Francisco Ballet.

A fellow balletomane and I attended a pre-performance talk at the Green Room before the evening performance of Romeo & Juliet. Sarah Van Patten was dancing Juliet that night, so Yuan Yuan Tan attended as the featured guest. I sat only a row behind hers! So that accounts for the fuzzy, stalker-y photo. She was memorable mainly for her presence: direct, uncompromising, and skinny. So skinny! It’s funny that that’s what struck us the most about her; on stage, I suppose you don’t notice, but in person she is all vertical lines up and down. She was quite vehement in her opinions, rejecting outright the host’s suggestion that Juliet and Giselle were similar heroines. Tan had the air of someone who didn’t suffer fools gladly, which kinda makes sense, considering that her climb to the top of the ballet world was nothing short of spectacular. No corps for this girl.


San Francisco Ballet Principal Highlight

The ballet itself was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on the stage. The stage itself (in the War Memorial House) was old-fashioned and gold-leafed.

My crappy cameraphone picture. It does not do justice!

What more can I say beyond the facts that it was ballet at its most gorgeous? Sarah Van Patten was a delicate and nuanced Juliet. I would, however, like to see Macmillan’s version at some point; Helgi Tomassen’s version felt more visceral and real, but the videos I’ve seen of Macmillan’s pas de deux are just so, so glorious. But this was a fine production.

The only downside to the evening were the drunken lovebirds in front of me who could not stop whispering to each other. That aside, a wonderful evening.

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Asian and Asian American ballet dancers: Mao’s Last Dancer

Opening Oct. 1–Mao’s Last Dancer, the true story of Li Cunxin, a Chinese ballet dancer who defected to the U.S. in the 1980s. I think the Houston Ballet is where it all goes down.

Looks like it has great potential to be a cheesefest, as is the case with most ballet movies, but the really really ridiculously good-looking Chi Chao (Birmingham Royal Ballet) is in it. Also, Bruce Greenwood– of Captain Pike fame–for the older ladies.

Color me excited.

Asian and Asian American ballet dancers: Alex Wong

Alex Wong first caught my eye when I was watching So You Think You Can Dance last year. His audition video was a shocker:

The SYTYCD audition piece was his Prix de Lausanne free variation, called Capture of the Tiger:

Wong is a Canadian dancer, the first ever to win the Prix de Lausanne in 2004. He joined ABT after his win, but eventually ended up with the Miami City Ballet. I believe he’s a principal soloist at this point in time. (After a rather awful and weird ejection from the SYTYCD competition as MCB refused to let him out of his contract)

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Introduction: Asian and Asian American ballet dancers, and Zhong Jing Fang

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.

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