Remembering Our Days; SDT Dance Pioneers


Xia Hai Ying, who was formerly a Chinese dancer, was invited to join Singapore Dance Theatre, and took on multiple principal roles in her 17 years with the company.

“Strength is a matter of the made-up mind” – John Beecher

Exhibiting graceful elegant actions and shining brightly on stage, it was the dream of countless young girls to become great dancers. Yet, it was never the initial intent of Hai Ying to pursue dance overseas, let alone become a professional in a foreign company. Being one of the few fortunate individuals to be accepted into the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy, plans for a long and dance-orientated career in China seemed to be predestined for her. Instead, she opted to forgo this already stable future and ventured into the unknown by joining SDT.

Hai Ying’s journey in dance started at 6 years old when her mother sent her for dance classes to build up her physical strength. Hai Ying’s rigorous journey as a dancer would soon blossom three years later, when her dance teacher brought her to Beijing to celebrate children’s day. Coincidentally, auditions for Beijing Dance Academy were being held in the city and her teacher jumped at the opportunity to register for her. Out of the 5000 applicants who auditioned, Hai Ying was one of the two to be accepted during this national audition.

Spending the next seven years of her teens at the academy, Hai Ying’s training was extremely tough and intensive. In 1992, Hai Ying was awarded the gold medal in the Tao Li Dance Competition of China. The video of her performance would present itself before the eyes of SDT’s founder, Ms Goh Soo Khim during her search for talents. Ms Goh sat in for one of her classes one day, and much to her astonishment, Hai Ying was offered a contract with SDT. She recalls her bewilderment as a Chinese dance major who was invited to join a Ballet company overseas.

The unexpected opportunity was in fact, contradictory to her institution’s intensions for her. The academy had planned for Hai Ying to join its youth company during her prime and teach at the academy. Instead, she relinquished this prospect and joined SDT, citing China’s economic change as her rationale for leaving. The arts in China then, were extremely commercial as opposed to its intrinsic nature and purpose of dance which to Hai Ying meant the ability create and question.  Despite her initial scepticism, the fact that Ms Goh chose her in spite of her differing background led Hai Ying to take that leap of faith towards her newfound prospects.

Joining SDT as an apprentice, there were several vivid reminiscences of her time with the company. Her first recollection was in 1994, when she fell on stage during Mr Anthony Then’s Nutcracker. The ordeal was discouraging for the apprentice who barely began her professional career for less than a year. Thinking that she would be fired for her inadequate performance, she was buoyed by Mr Anthony’s words to “keep smiling”. Another milestone was when she was selected by Janek Schergen as the first cast of Choo-San Goh’s Birds of Paradise, and it was her first time dancing as first cast. The opportunity came very much as a surprise to her. Yet another unforgettable moment was performing Madame Butterfly, which was one of the few ballets that narrates about an Asian character, the role felt identifiable and emotionally relatable for her as an Asian dancer to portray. With such an abundance of experience in SDT, it was truly the support she received from various individuals in the company, the ones who saw the potential in her when she did not, which led her to achieve greater heights than she ever imagined possible.

In 2009, Hai Ying accepted the position of advisor to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), junior dance department, while she was still dancing with SDT. There, she oversaw numerous managerial aspects of the department such as setting the course curriculum, examination structure, class schedules aside from teaching as well. In 2010, after Hai Ying retired from SDT, she joined School of The Arts (SOTA) as part of its dance faculty. It was through the journey of teaching at NAFA and SOTA that spurred Hai Ying on to start her own ballet school, City Ballet Academy.

Presently, City Ballet Academy is one the most renowned local ballet schools. Hai Ying’s most fulfilling aspect of being a dance educator is the opportunity to change mindsets as she believes that ballet is not only about fun and entertainment, but rather a great form of art work. Often telling her students, “Every art form requires hard work; it is a long way till you can look graceful (as a dancer)” One of the key principles of City Ballet Academy is to provide each student with a holistic education from character building to proper technical development, this gives them a good foundation should they intend to pursue the dance professionally in the future.

To Hai Ying, dance has definitely made her more independent, determined, and responsible. It is in her heart that every young aspiring artists would always give their fullest, because anything that comes lightly would often be valued less or taken for granted. Seriously pursuing a passion would require hard work that goes beyond the perception of dance being a happy or fun recreation. By giving her fullest in her endeavours, Hai Ying is able to testify of the sense of great achievement, knowledge, and vast experience she has received.


1982 – Started learning Dance

1986 – Accepted into the Beijing Dance Academy

1992 – Attained 1st Prize, Tao Li Cup Dance Competition of China

1993 – Joined SDT

1999 – Grand Pix Prize, 7th Asia Pacific International Ballet Competition

2001 – Winner of the “Front Award” from MediaCorp TV’s Arts Central for the achievement in dance

2003 – Nominated for the “Benois de La Danse Prix” and was invited to perform at the Gala at Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.

2006 – Nominated for “Most Outstanding Dancer” in the “Dance Australia” (Feb/Mar 2006).

Nominated for “Most Interesting Overseas Artists” in the “Artist Dance Australia”.

Australian’s Critics Survey, Ruth Rigway (Brisbane).

2008 – “Young Artist Award” from National Arts Council Singapore

2009 – Royal Academy of Dance, UK. Professional Dancer’s Teaching Diploma – Distinction

2010 – Royal Academy of Dance, UK.

Tutor of the Certificate of Ballet Teaching Studies

Mentor of the Certificate of Ballet Teaching Studies

2009 – Advisor to Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Junior department)

2010 – Retired from SDT

2010 – Begun teaching at SOTA

2012 – Founded City Ballet Academy

2015 – City Ballet Academy has received Top 100 Singapore Excellence Award