Like most aspiring ballerinas in Hong Kong, Anastasia Tin had dreamed of landing a major role in Hong Kong Ballet’s annual landmark production of The Nutcracker. When she was cast as Clärchen last year, she realised being the main character’s favourite doll was so much more than just having to appear cute.
When Anastasia took part in the Christmas production for the first time in 2016, her role was minor and she was on stage for less than five minutes.
Dancing as Clärchen last year, however, meant the 13-year-old had to appear in almost the entire second act, and master a number of solo dances. She also had to perform alongside the city’s leading senior ballerinas. To a budding dancer like Anastasia, it was as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one.
“In the past, my role was so small that no one would really notice [me], but Clärchen had to be on stage for most of Act Two, everyone had eyes on her, so it was rather overwhelming,” she said.
The West Island School student recalled how nervous she had been during the grand opening of last year’s show, because she’d just finished learning the choreography two weeks before. Thanks to the professional dancers who cheered her on, Anastasia’s confidence was restored and she was able to pull off a splendid performance.
“The older dancers told me it’s normal to be nervous, and all I had to do was to keep practising until I felt like I knew the dance well,” she said.
The Year Eight student added that, while the role involved numerous solo dances, it was far beyond an individual effort. Throughout the rehearsals, Anastasia teamed up with the other two dancers playing Clärchen to help each other memorise the steps that were hurriedly taught. She would write down the steps she could remember on her notebook, then compare her notes with what the other Clärchens had, and piece the whole dance together.
After her successful debut as Clärchen last December, Anastasia, who is a scholar dancer at Jean M. Wong School of Ballet, said she is ready to attend the Hong Kong International Summer Dance School in July to August, where she can refine her pointe technique and immerse herself in different variations of ballet in the repertoire class. The four-week summer course will be followed by a grand performance known as Stars of Tomorrow.
“Although the summer course is quite intense, I think I’ve improved a lot through the course in the past few years, so I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.
In addition to preparing for her summer show, the ballerina is set on participating in more dance competitions, including the Hong Kong Ballet Group Stars Award in August. Last year, she won the 12 to 13 age group.
Anastasia is also preparing for her last grade examination and hopes she will attain an even higher distinction mark than her previous scores.
“I’ve received the same marks over the years, usually 93 out of 100. It’s a distinction mark already, but I want a breakthrough, since it will be my last grade exam,” she said.
When asked what advice would she give to fellow dancers who wish to land a major role, Anastasia said the key is to set some realistic goals and make small steps toward them.
“Don’t set hard goals that you’ll never reach. Set some small goals, then you’ll find it easier to accomplish something in your life.”