Jin Yao

Prin­ci­pal dancer at The Hong Kong Bal­let

Prestige Hong Kong - 40 under 40 - - Contents -

As we go to print, Jin Yao is tak­ing her fi­nal bow on stage as prin­ci­pal dancer of The Hong Kong Bal­let with her tour-de­force per­for­mance in Giselle. But when the cur­tains come down, a new door is open­ing for her: as the head of SJ In­ter­na­tional School of Bal­let in Kowloon Tong, bring­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise to a new gen­er­a­tion of bal­leri­nas. “It’s a beau­ti­ful school and we have over 200 stu­dents al­ready,” she says. “My hus­band — also a for­mer bal­let dancer — and I cre­ated it for boys and girls. We want to utilise our life­long train­ing to teach oth­ers.”

Life­long in­deed. Born in Jilin, China, Jin Yao grad­u­ated from Bei­jing Dance Academy in 1997 and joined the Na­tional Bal­let of China. Both her par­ents were dancers and she re­mem­bers go­ing for re­hearsals as a child. It was a nat­u­ral de­vel­op­ment for her to be­come a dancer. Prin­ci­pal dancer at the Na­tional Bal­let by 2003, she was quickly ranked top­grade China Na­tional Dancer. “I’ve been train­ing since I was 10 years old — six days a week, morn­ing till night. I’ve had a very dis­ci­plined life as, what­ever I did, I wanted to be the best. That takes prac­tice.”

Jin re­ceived a Ca­reer Out­stand­ing Con­tri­bu­tion Award from China’s Min­istry of Cul­ture in 2001 and 2002. In Au­gust 2004, she joined The Hong Kong Bal­let as se­nior soloist. “I came in at a high rank when I first came to Hong Kong and rose quickly. In a year I was prin­ci­pal dancer.” Nu­mer­ous awards fol­lowed, cul­mi­nat­ing in her claim­ing a Best Artist of the Year award (dance cat­e­gory) at the Hong Kong Arts De­vel­op­ment Awards in 2010.

With all these ac­co­lades, why put away the satin shoes? “I’ve al­ways had a very con­trolled life. Now I want to re­lease my­self. I want to start other things. If I keep danc­ing, I won’t have time to do any­thing else,” she says. “Now that we’re run­ning the bal­let school, my lit­tle daugh­ter comes to watch us — if she has in­ter­est and abil­ity, she’ll con­tinue where I stopped.”

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