From school to university to work, life can seem like an endless series of interviews. But succeeding in one just might change your entire life. At least, that’s what happened to 23-year-old actor-turned-singer Cherry Ngan Cheuk-ling after one crucial audition won her a starring role in the 2013 Hong Kong film The Way We Dance. She was nominated for Best Actress at three Asian film awards ceremonies in 2013 and 2014, including the 50th Golden Horse Film Awards, for her portrayal of aspiring dancer Fleur in the hit movie about street dance and chasing dreams.
But the journey to success wasn’t without hiccups.
“I’d stopped dancing for some time when the casting opportunity came,” Ngan, who recently released her first single - Sim Gwong ("Flash") - told Young Post.
She first saw the casting call for the film on Facebook. At the time, she was a 15-year-old theatre enthusiast, taking leads in school plays at Sha Tin Government Secondary School and rushing to different theatre groups for after-school castings or rehearsals. Despite having taken a break from dancing, Ngan had previously learned Chinese, jazz, Latin and social dance, and felt this was her moment to shine.
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To prepare, Ngan sought help from her dance instructor, who choreographed a sequence for her. Just before the audition, however, Ngan realised her teacher had added four extra bars to the song but hadn’t done any choreography for them.
“I didn’t know what to do...coming up with new dance moves would take a lot of time. But I was in school, and the casting day was very close.”
Luckily, Ngan didn’t panic.
“I get stage fright whenever I perform in front of strangers, so it would have been risky to try and memorise new dance moves when I was used to the original arrangement. So I told myself ‘Let it be, and it will be okay’ while believing in myself deeply.”
She allowed this mindset to carry her through to the audition, where a crew member counted her in and started the music before she had a chance to explain that her dance didn’t begin right away. Ngan thought on her feet: swaying to the music, she used the spare time to introduce herself and express how much she wanted the role.
For Ngan, landing a role is about “meeting the right people at a timely opportunity”.
“Like the other candidates, I did not know about the story or the fact that I was auditioning for the role of Fleur. But coincidentally, they recognised Fleur’s characteristics in me.”
And Ngan has some sound advice to share with young aspiring actors.
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“You might be disappointed if you’re not selected at a casting. You might doubt your value and stop believing in yourself,”said Ngan, who admits she is her own worst critic, particularly when reviewing performances from early in her career.
“But not getting cast doesn’t mean you won’t be selected another time. You might be a suitable candidate for another production.”
Unlike Hollywood, she added, there are far fewer films produced in Hong Kong, and therefore fewer casting opportunities.
“But as long as you work hard on your talent and persevere” she said, “it will be recognised someday.”
Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge