How old were you when you started ballet?

I did Chinese dance since I was five or six years old, and started learning ballet at Liao Ning Ballet School when I was nine. I started ballet because Liao Ning Ballet came to my hometown to do a performance, and we had the opportunity to perform with them. After the performance, the Artistic Director scouted me out, and asked my mother if I would like to join Liao Ning Ballet School that year. I’m really glad that I was given that opportunity.

What was the first ballet you ever saw in a theatre? Who was it by, and what impression did it leave with you?

The first ballet I watched was Le Corsaire by Liao Ning Ballet when I was about 11 years old. It was my first time experiencing what it was like to be in a theatre and to be in a professional performance. I really enjoyed and adored all the beautiful costume, set, and dancers. It was then that I thought to myself when will I be able to be like them. (laughs)

When did you decide to pursue a professional career, and why?

I guess I decided to pursue a professional career in dance when I decided to go to Liao Ning Ballet School, but I don’t think I actually understood the impact and importance of my decision when that I decided to go to boarding school.  I only realised the extent of my decision when I reached the school and experienced the culture and setting of the school.

Did you enjoy your training at your school?

Yes, I did. Our school bell would ring at 6am everyday, and the whole school will be awake for breakfast. We would then have ballet class in the morning, academic class, lunch, stretching class, dinner, and personal study time in the evening. The bell would ring again at 9pm and everyone would go to sleep. That happens every day. (laughs)

When I was at Liao Ning, I also realised that I could not depend my mother, and had to be really independent with all my responsibilities, from learning how to do laundry, to changing bedsheets. Because I had friends who could go through the journey with me, I really enjoyed my time there and got used to the livelihood at school soon enough.

I was in Liao Ning Ballet since I was nine to 14 years old. After graduation, I studied in Beijing Dance Academy for two years, before coming over to Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) on a scholarship to study for a Diploma in Dance.

I was not used to the year-round Summer and food when I came over to Singapore, but I’ve grown to be accustomed to the culture here over the years. Having to study difficult topics like anatomy, nutrition and dance history in English was a challenge as well, but my classmates really helped me a lot in class.

When and how did you join SDT?

After I graduated, I emailed our Artistic Director Janek to ask for an audition, but I found out that the next audition was at the end of 2013. So I joined SDT’s company classes and scholar’s as well in June 2013, and was given a place as an apprentice in January 2014.

What was your first role in SDT as a professional dancer? Did you like it?

Spanish Girls in The Nutcracker in 2013. It was my first time performing on a big stage, so I felt quite nervous about it before the performance, I felt really happy once the performance was over.

 How do you learn a new ballet/choreography? Is it different for contemporary and classical choreography?

I would first try to memorise the choreography, before analysing each movement and seeing how each step can be further improved. I feel that it easier to memorise classical routines than contemporary because I am more familiar with how each ballet steps transits to another.

What is a typical rehearsal day like for you? What do you do during breaks?

I usually wake up at about 7.30am, and reach the studio at 9am to have my breakfast and stretch before company class at 10am. Depending on my castings, my rehearsal schedule would vary from day to day. But during my break times, I would sew my pointe shoes, or talk with my friends.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I don’t have a fixed pre-performance ritual, but I would try to get ready about 2 hours before performance so that I can take my time to get my make-up, hair, costume, and shoes prepared and done before the performance. Some dancers would have a cup of coffee, or a banana, but coffee doesn’t really have an effect on me and I don’t really like the taste of it, so I don’t take it regularly.

What do you eat on a big rehearsal/performance day?

I don’t eat too much before a performance because I want my body to feel light so that I am able to execute my jumps and movements without feeling too heavy.

What is your dream role?

Theme and Variations by George Balanchine, it was the first work that I watched when I first came in to SDT, and I was an understudy for it then. It would be really nice if I could perform it on stage one day.

What is your favourite costume so far?

Theme and Variations by George Balanchine (laughs), because the costume looks so beautiful! When I first watched this ballet being performed, I remember feeling like I wanted to wear that tutu and be on stage with them.

Who is your favourite choreographer in the works you’ve danced?

Cynthia Harvey, who came to stage Don Quixote last year. Knowing that Cynthia Harvey has danced as Kitri before, I really respected and admired her style of dance. She was very well organised in her rehearsals, and was clear with what she wanted to achieve.

Do you watch ballets from the wings during performance days?

Yes, I do. It is a very different feeling watching from the audience point of view and from the wings, and I really enjoy watching the behind the scenes of a performance, to be able to witness their emotions and preparation just before they get on stage. I am also able to support and cheer on my friends while I’m at the wings!

How do you feel after a performance?

Really happy! I would also feel really relieved and glad that I can take a short break before rehearsals start again for the next performance.

What is your most prized possession?

Time. And vacations back home. I really treasure my time back home when I visit my family back in China every December. Just being able to catch up with friends, and share about how our lives have changed and been, it really warms my heart to spend time with them.

What do you like to do outside of SDT?

I would hang out with my friends, or have a drink at night. I also like watching movie, shopping and just walking around Singapore.

Do you have a “guilty pleasure”?

Shopping! I would see something that I really like, and I would buy it. When in actual fact, I don’t actually need it because I already have something similar at home. It’s quite a dichotomy, because I would be happy that I bought it, but unhappy that the money spent was quite unnecessary.

Are most of your friends dancers?

No, there are some of my friends who are teachers, or work in offices. But of course I have many friends who are dancers as I grew up in a dance school.

How does your family feel about your career?

My parents really respected my choice although I know that they would worry about me, and miss having me at home. But they have been very supportive through these 12 years of being away from home, and I’m very thankful for my parent’s love and support.

What do you want to do after dancing?

I haven’t quite decided if I would stay in Singapore or return to China, but I would love to become a dance teacher.