IN honor of her 20 years at the prestigious San Francisco Ballet as principal dancer, Shanghai-born ballerina Tan Yuanyuan will present a spectacular show tonight at Shanghai Culture Square.
In 1995 Tan joined the company — the oldest professional ballet group of its kind in the US — and since then has established herself as one of the best dancers of her generation. Among her many accolades, Tan was named a “Hero of Asia” by the Asian edition of Time magazine in 2004. Indeed, Tan is the first Chinese dancer to have achieved international fame in the world of ballet.
At a press conference held this week, Tan extended her gratitude to the troupe’s artistic director, Helgi Tomasson, whom she credits for discovering her potential and helping her become a versatile artist.
Tomasson, who was also present at the event, praised Tan’s technical prowess, elegance and her mastery of both classical and contemporary dance genres.
“It is not often to see a ballerina in almost the whole range of styles,” Tomasson added. “She is absolutely a delight for me to work with. I am proud of her.”
Tan’s performance will feature solo, duo and group routines from noted choreographers.
Founded in 1933, The San Francisco Ballet also put on a show this week, “Giselle,” accompanied by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Both this performance and Tan’s headlining show are part of events in the ongoing 17th China Shanghai International Arts Festival.
Q: Before coming to Shanghai, you also performed in Beijing last week and the show was a huge success. How do you expect your performance to be received in Shanghai?
A: This is the second time for me to present a ballet show in my hometown with the San Francisco Ballet. In 2009, I led the company in Shanghai for “Swan Lake.” The dance episodes in tonight’s show are tailor made for me. All of them pose new challenges.
On October 23, I staged a show in Beijing. We responded to curtain-call three times because of the enthusiasm of the audience. I was moved to tears by them. It was a moment that was worth all the pains and hardships.
Q: What do you think of your last 20 years at the San Francisco Ballet?
A: Time flies. I can still remember my first day in San Francisco. It’s been a rewarding experience for me to work at the San Francisco Ballet. Every year I have opportunities to try new plays and characters, which helps to broaden my artistic vision and enhance my techniques.
Q: What are your suggestions to young ballet students?
A: Ballet is a difficult art that requires a lot of practice. However, if they have passion and perseverance, they will have a chance to stand out. Chance favors the prepared mind.
Q: Ballet dancers usually have short professional careers. As a principal dancer at the age of 38, how do you remain so fit for the stage?
A: I cherish every second on stage. I am so lucky to be able to dance at 38. I will not give up my passion for art or the stage as along as I am physically tough enough for the work. I think it is important for a dancer to keep on practicing.