Dancing with the pros

Dancing with the pros

A group of HK students had the chance to learn ballet from the best

Chan Shuk-ching finally got her wish. She could learn ballet - and from members of the prestigious Birmingham Royal Ballet at that.

"I've been dreaming for a long time about an opportunity to learn ballet," said the 13-year-old student from Elegantia College. "I've learned a lot from the dancers. Robert's teaching was so effective that we were able to remember the steps easily.

"And Pearl was very kind. She never scolded us when we didn't [get] the steps right. The project has increased my confidence to [perform] onstage in front of an audience," she added.

Shuk-ching was among 38 students selected at an audition from three schools which take part in the Artists-in-Resident project.

The project is part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival's Young Friends Scheme (YFS) and is supported by BNP Paribas. Last November, selected students were offered 10 workshops held by local and resident artists from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, whose members included principal dancer Robert Parker, Pearl Chesterman (director for learning), and musician Andrew Kristy. After the workshops, students performed scenes from the ballet Hobson's Choice in several schools and in the foyer of the cultural centre. The young dancers also watched the show performed on stage by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Hong Kong Arts Festival this month.

Another lucky participant was 16-year-old Anthony Tsang Cheuk-him, a student from Fung Kai Liu Man Shek Tong Secondary School. He was selected to play the title character Hobson during the students' performance. "Ballet was completely new to me and I had to learn all the basic steps from scratch," he said. "I've also learned how to use facial expressions and body movements to express myself better."

He added: "Members of the Birmingham Royal Ballet always motivated us with words of encouragement. When we were tensed, they helped us feel relaxed."

Anthony says he took away an important lesson from the professional dancers. "I realised the importance of rehearsals and that we needed to keep practising and preparing for the show," he said.

Gigi Pun Wan-chi, a student from TWGHs Li Ka Shing College, agreed. "The best experience for me was that I've learned how to prepare myself for a good performance - how to look smart and confident on stage," the 15-year-old said.

"I was very nervous about performing in public. But after our show, we were rewarded by the audience's applause and appreciation and I felt so very happy."

The organiser, too, enjoyed working with the young dancers. "It was a great pleasure to watch young people progress from struggling with complicated movements to performing them with panache," said Tisa Ho, executive director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.

"I hope the experience has given them not only the ability to perform these dance steps, but also a new level of self-knowledge - something they can draw on in all sorts of different circumstances."

For details of the school projects offered by YFS, visit: www.yfs.artsfestival.org

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