This is the fourth in the series of Conversations with Adult Ballet Students. Leave me a message if you would like to be profiled in a future edition.
Introducing Shirley Poon, a management trainee in a Japanese company in Hong Kong. Shirley is going to share with us her bitter-sweet life as a life-long ballet student, and how learning ballet has helped her build a strong character and face life’s various challenges.
Q: Did you ever take ballet lessons as a kid? When was that?
A: Yes, I started dancing when I was three years old.
Q: Have you ever stopped dancing since then?
A: No, except for a month when I was preparing for the public exams at the end of my high school term.
Q: What motivated you to keep on learning ballet?
A: I’m constantly attracted to ballet because every gesture and every step exudes a sense of elegance. Besides, the costumes in classical ballet are so beautiful.
Q: What do you find to be the biggest challenge or difficulty for an adult ballet student?
A: I think the greatest challenge for an adult ballet student is how to keep up the spirit of perseverance. Many movements in ballet cannot be mastered in a short time. Rather, one needs to practice over and over to get a handle on them. Besides, ballet requires not only perfection in technique but acting skills and coordination with music. All of these make ballet an extremely challenging art form. During the learning process, there are many things that can lead to a strong sense of frustration. Sometimes you just feel like giving up. For working adults, it is doubly hard when you have to gear up to go to a ballet class after putting in a full day’s work, when you naturally feel like hitting the couch and having a rest! But ballet is an art that requires continuous practice to make it perfect, that’s why I think that perseverance is such a big challenge for adults.
Q: What does ballet bring to your life?
A: Throughout my life, ballet has helped me build character, making me a person who does not easily give up. As I said before, ballet is an art form that has extremely high requirements. Physical stamina, technique and aesthetics—take either one away and it’s not ballet. When you learn ballet, you must not be afraid of failing. Even if you fail, you must try and try again, because you might just succeed the very next time! So what ballet has taught me, is not to easily give up when I run into difficulties in my work. When I face challenges in life, I have taken what I’ve learned in ballet and used the same attitude to keep on learning and preserving.
Q: What is the greatest achievement in your ballet life so far?
A: Ha ha, I can’t say I have made any special achievements. But if you count them as achievements, well, I have gotten a number of awards when I and my ballet buddies competed in some regional dance competitions.
Q: What have you gained that was out of your expectation?
A: Sure! I have made friends with a big group of people who are just as crazy about ballet as I am. We often encourage and learn from one another. This is something that I didn’t expect in the beginning.
Q: What have you lost?
A: Because of the need to practice frequently, I have sacrificed time that could have been spent doing fun stuff with my friends outside the ballet circle.
Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for ballet?
A: There was a period when I was preparing for a ballet exam and rehearsing for a performance at the same time. At that time, I started practicing from nine in the morning till eleven in the evening. After a whole day’s training, my body was so exhausted that it became numb. But the next day I would return to the dance studio right on time.
Q: Is it all worth it?
A: It is! Because I love ballet so much, no matter how tired I get, it’s all worth it!
Q: Have you ever dreamt of becoming a professional ballet dancer?
A: Yes, when I was little, I did dream about becoming a professional ballet dancer. However, later on I realized that my physique is that of a professional dancer, so I did not keep my dream anymore. I am very satisfied that I can keep on learning.
Q: As an adult dancer, what is your goal in ballet?
A: Different schools of ballet represent different kinds of aesthetics. My wish is to travel around the world and study different kinds of techniques in various ballet academies, so I can broaden the scope of my knowledge in my beloved art form.