Our own Billy Elliot

Our own Billy Elliot

A young ballet dancer hopes to make a name for himself

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Ballet prodigy Lam Chun-wing practises his steps at the Jean M Wong School of Ballet in North Point.
Ballet prodigy Lam Chun-wing practises his steps at the Jean M Wong School of Ballet in North Point.
Photos: David Wong
Fourteen-year-old ballet boy Lam Chun-wing's admission to the L'Ecole de Danse de Paris, a prestigious ballet school in France, has become the talk of the town. Inevitably, comparisons are being made between Chun-wing and the boy lead in the famous 2000 film Billy Elliot.

But the comparison isn't wholly apt. In the film, Billy, an English lad, is keen on pursuing his love of ballet despite ridicule from others. Chun-wing has not encountered such opposition. Rather, he was opposed to ballet himself.

"Unlike Billy, I was dead set against doing ballet at first," the Form Three student from STFA Lee Shau Kee College recalls.

"When my mum sent me to learn ballet, I didn't want to stay in the room, as there were a lot of girls."

Chun-wing's mother works as a secretary at a ballet school and "pushed" her son into becoming a dancer when he was seven.

The boy has spent the past seven years honing his skills.

"Right now I am only a part-time student at my ballet school," Chun-wing notes. "To further my skills and level of performance, I need to study abroad."

Some well-known ballet schools accepted Chun-wing's application, but he failed to meet the minimum age requirement. "They require the dancers to be at least 15. I won't be 15 until this September. That means I'd have had to wait one more year," Chun-wing says.

The turning point for the young dancer was an invitation to a private audition at L'Ecole de Danse de Paris from the ballet school's principal who had watched a DVD of Chun-wing's performance.

"It is very rare for them to conduct a private audition. They usually organise group auditions, so I thought Chun-wing had a high chance of getting in," says Jean M Wong, principal of Jean M Wong School of Ballet, where Chun-wing took ballet lessons.

She accompanied Chun-wing to Paris in May. The private audition included a two-hour session with students of the ballet school. After his audition, Chun-wing was welcomed into the school.

Chun-wing concedes that he is feeling a bit jittery. "I will have an annual exam next June. There is no midway option. If I pass it, I can progress to the next level. But if I don't, I will need to pack my bags and return home," Chun-wing says.

But the good news is his new school in Paris has already included him in a demonstration show at the academy scheduled for December in recognition of his talent.

Wong has also reassured the boy, telling him that he has nothing to lose. His air tickets, school fees and living expenses are all sponsored by the Tsinforn C Wong Memorial Scholarship of the Jean M Wong School of Ballet.

Chun-wing now has his hands full. He needs to take an intensive course in French so he will be able to speak with his teachers and classmates in France.

He will also attend a summer programme at the Royal Ballet School in Britain next month. Meanwhile, he is rehearsing for a comic ballet performance, La Fille Mal Gardee, organised by his ballet school at Sha Tin Town Hall in August. He will play the lead role.

Chun-wing seeks perfection in every performance.

He takes his practice sessions very seriously. And when he steps out onto the stage, he focuses on only one thing: to dance well.

"I am delighted to have the chance to study in Paris and I hope one day I can be a leading ballet dancer," he says. "My biggest dream is that I can inspire more local boys to take up ballet dancing."

Billy Elliot would agree.

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