This is the fifth in the series of Conversations with Adult Ballet Students. Leave me a message if you would like to be profiled in a future edition.
Meet Angel Chau, who works with equity sales in a brokerage house in Hong Kong and finds her dream in the ballet studio, which she dubs her “wonderland.”
Q: Did you ever take ballet lessons as a kid? When was that?
A: I took my first ballet class when I was around 4 or 5. I was so young that I don’t remember the details. All I can remember is that the music my teacher used for our dance came from the movie “An American Tail”—the title song of which is “Somewhere Out There.” When I was in junior high school, I joined a dance troupe called Crystal Western Folk Dance. Before we rehearsed our dances, we were given some basic ballet training. It was informal though. At that time, Winghong Wa became my first ballet teacher. He was in the first graduating class of the first ballet school in China. When I started my lessons with him, he was already over 50. In him, I see someone who is truly passionate about ballet, and this passion is not limited by age.
答：四、五歲時學過。年紀太小甚麼也不記得，只記得當年課堂上老師排舞音樂是老鼠也移民的主題曲–Somewhere out there。後來是初中時加入旭穎西方舞團，排舞前會上一些芭蕾舞基訓,不過也不是正式的芭蕾舞課。當年的芭蕾舞啟蒙老師-華永康老師是中國第一間芭蕾舞蹈學校的第一批學生，他教我跳舞時也年過半百了。從他身上我看到一個真正熱愛芭蕾的人，絕對不受年紀性別限制。
Q: When did you start taking ballet class as an adult?
A: After university and having worked for two years, I suddenly realized that life was dry and boring—going to work day in and day out with the sole purpose of making money. So I decided to give myself the gift of dance as the birthday present for that year.
Q: What motivated you to study ballet?
A: I have always loved to dance since I was a little child. But I always have felt that ballet is the foundation of all dance styles. That’s why I chose the ballet studio to be my escape from the world of money—it’s my “wonderland.”
Q: What do you find to be the biggest challenge or difficulty?
A: Time. When it comes to good ballet technique and stamina, there is no shortcut. The muscle tone, each tiny movement of the hands and the feet, the grace—all of these must be built through continuous training, hour after hour, day after day.
Adults are often constrained by their work schedule. Sometimes they have to socialize for work purposes during afterhours or travel on business, so they can’t make it to class. Besides work, some of us need to spend time with our significant others or our family. Some classmates may have been going very strong in class until they get pregnant and need to spend a tremendous amount of time to take care of their children. They can’t afford the time to take class anymore.
Q: What does ballet bring to your life?
A: I have learned the importance of perseverance. I’m a typical Hong Konger, which means I want efficiency and cost effectiveness in everything. But when it comes to ballet, there are no short courses. To be able to dance well, you’ve got to put in a long period of training time. If you persevere, you will find yourself having improved after a few years.
Another thing I got from ballet is friendship. I have made friends who are younger than me, who share the same interest as me. We have gone through exams and stage performances together. All these years, my classmates are not only friends but my teachers as well.
Q: What is the greatest achievement in your ballet life so far?
A: Although I have performed countless times, I know that I still don’t dance very well, so I can’t really say I have any achievements. But, I’d get very emotional every time I have finished a performance after having worked hard with my teacher and classmates.
Last year, I took two coworkers who were absolute beginners to take class with me. Gradually, they started to fall under the spell of ballet’s magic. Having successfully promoted ballet is an achievement that I am very happy about.
Q: What have you gained that was out of your expectation?
A: Ha ha ha, well, I don’t have to spend money on pedicure. In the summer, I would still wear sandals. If someone criticize on the look of my toe nails, I’d explain that this is what lies behind the beauty of ballet.
Q: What have you lost?
A: What I have gained is far greater than what I have lost.
Q: Is it all worth it?
A: Sure is!
Q: What is your goal in ballet?
A: To stay healthy and dance until I die.
Q: You also have continued to perform folk dance as an adult. Having studied both folk dance and ballet, what similarities do you find between the two dance forms?
A: There are quite a lot of similarities. Take Italian folk dance as an example. A lot of its allegro steps are based on ballet.
Q: How has folk dance enriched your life?
A: I have traveled with my dance troupe to Inner Mongolia for an international folk dance festival, where I met many different dance groups from different countries. Later on when dance festivals are hosted in those different countries, our troupe will be invited to attend too. Two years ago, I also participated in a folk dance festival in Slovakia and made many friends.