Christmas in Hong Kong: family, food - and ballet? Yes, when it's The Nutcracker

Christmas in Hong Kong: family, food - and ballet? Yes, when it's The Nutcracker

While for most of us Christmas means presents, feasts and a break away from studies, for one French International School student, this year it means only one thing

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Photo: Patrice Yip

While most of us are looking forward to unwrapping presents or a break away from school and exams, Christmastime means only one thing for dance lovers – it’s time for The Nutcracker.

This famous ballet is an iconic Christmas performance. And while many of us watch it and wish we could be as graceful as the dancers on stage, Patrice Yip gets to live that dream.

The 12-year-old French International School student earned a place on the stage in the role of Clärchen - the doll belonging to lead character Clara - in Hong Kong Ballet's production of the beloved tale this year.

Patrice will share the role with three other dancers – but even with four places up for grabs, it wasn’t easy getting a spot. She had to go through three rounds of auditions. At the first open audition, Patrice was up against more than 400 other ballerinas. “The biggest challenge is to compete with the dancers from other countries,” she says, “who at my age have been receiving full-time professional training in their countries for a few years.”

Patrice isn’t exactly inexperienced herself. She started ballet when she was just two years old, and has excelled at the discipline since then. “When I was seven years old, I won a scholarship from my ballet school,” she says. “When I was nine, I obtained the fourth place solo at Asian Grand Prix ballet competition in my age group.”

And her accolades don’t stop there. “Last July, among competitors from other countries, I received the Gold Award at the Hong Kong Challenge Cup Dance Competition in the Ballet Solo section in my age group.”

It’s not her first time dancing with the Hong Kong Ballet either: Patrice has danced in their productions of Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty and Romeo & Juliet.

That didn't make it any easier at auditions, though. “You only have one dance to learn for a competition, but for this, you have to remember the whole production,” she says, explaining that for the final casting the dancers only had half a week to learn all of their scenes. Since Clärchen appears throughout The Nutcracker, this meant Patrice had to learn the entire show, not just a couple of scenes.

Aside from having the technical dance ability of a ballerina, Patrice also needed to demonstrate her acting ability as Clärchen plays an important part in the overall story. “Dancing in The Nutcracker is different from other performances in that it requires both acting and dancing to tell the story,” Patrice says. “It is more enjoyable like this.”

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