Ballet is tough. Tough on the body. Tough on the mind. It’s an art that belongs to the youth—if you wish to be a professional dancer, you’ve got to start young—and you generally finish your career young. But there is a group of adults who are so smitten with the beauty of this art form that they have started to learn it. For some, they started as a child and continue to take class in adulthood. What motivates them to pick up ballet in the first place, and to continue taking class despite the challenges? Follow me in my series of “Conversations with Adult Ballet Students.” My focus will be on adult ballet students in Hong Kong but will also include those in other countries. Leave me a message if you would like to be profiled in a future edition.
Joining us for the first conversation is Wong Sin Ting. Sin Ting, or Kitty, works as a facilities manager and program officer in Hong Kong. Let’s hear what she has to say!
Q: Did you ever take ballet lessons as a kid? When was that?
A: Yes, I did. When I was five.
Q: When did you start taking ballet class as an adult?
A: I have been learning ballet since I was a child and since then haven’t really stopped.
Q: What motivated you to learn ballet?
A: I’m inspired by the beauty of the movements. At the same time, taking class is a good workout. I can kill two birds with one stone!
Q: What do you find to be the biggest challenge or difficulty?
A: The biggest challenge is flexibility. Without a good degree of flexibility, it’s difficult to produce beautiful and elegant movements.
Q：What does ballet bring to your life?
A：My life revolves around dancing. I love going to ballet performances, for example, I would go with my classmates to Taiwan for ballet shows as well as sightseeing. When I visit the UK, I would find a dance studio to take class and go to the Royal Opera House to watch performances by the Royal Ballet. I don’t read many books but all the books I have at home have to do with dancing.
答：我嘅生活都圍繞著跳舞，如為左睇芭蕾舞星的演出，與跳舞同學一齊去台灣旅行兼睇表演；去英國旅行都要去搵舞蹈室上堂及去Royal Opera House 睇Royal Ballet。我本身係一個唔多睇書嘅人，但我屋企有嘅書都係同跳舞有關嘅書籍。
Q: What is the greatest achievement in your ballet life so far?
A: Being recognized for my own choreography. For example, in 2013, my work “The Time is Now” was chosen to be showcased at the Hong Kong Dance Festival. In 2012, I got the silver award for my choreography for the Group Dance category at the 8th Young Ballet Stars Award organized by the Hong Kong Ballet Group.
Q: What have you gained that was out of your expectation?
A: Well, to me, dancing isn’t just about making movements. It has trained me to persevere and stick to my goals with strong will power. It has also improved my bodily coordination and analytic skills. I feel that what I’ve gained from ballet has helped me become much more efficient when doing other things.
Q: What have you lost?
A: As I spend most of my free time in dancing, I’ve sacrificed the chances to hang out with other friends and go shopping and dining.
Q: Is it all worth it?
A: Sure, because dancing is what I like to do most!
Q：Have you ever dreamt of becoming a professional ballet dancer?
A: Well, I did dream to become a dancer, but when I was in secondary school, I realized that I didn’t have the right body to become one—I was not flexible enough, my legs were not straight enough, and I didn’t have a high arch. But I think that I might have other talents related to dancing, such as piano accompaniment or choreography.
Q: As an adult dancer, what is your goal or dream in ballet?
A: As I won’t be a professional dancer, I only hope to be able to continue to dance happily with my dance buddies. I have once had the desire to choreograph a full-length ballet to be performed on stage. Perhaps this can be considered my ballet dream, ha ha!