A Few Thoughts About Touring in Hong Kong

March 3, 2011

Pretty much everything that I know about China has been gathered from the ballets I’ve danced, so I was a little disappointed to learn that the men here are not pushed around in large tea boxes from which they spring forth to perform split-jumps. Nor have I seen anyone shuffling around with his or her index fingers pointing in the air. I guess life doesn’t always imitate art.


But seriously, so far as I can tell, everyone from New York City Ballet is really enjoying Hong Kong. Before company class all I hear is other dancers talking about which restaurant has the best-roasted suckling pig, and where the best place to go get a wacky iPhone case is. Seeing as my iPhone looks fine just as it is, I tend to pay a bit more attention to the roasted pig recommendations. So to anyone out there, who still believes in the archaic notion that ballerinas don’t eat, tell that to our greasy lips.


OK, OK, I know, this is Dance Magazine not Bon Appetit, back to the dance.


One of the greater challenges of going on a tour like this is making sure that your body arrives in better shape than your luggage does. Nothing looks worse onstage or let alone feels worse, than a ballet company full of dancers with swollen body parts, and nothing makes your body swell up more than a 16-hour flight. The best way to prevent what I have coined as “Stay-puff Body” is a good pair of compression socks, maybe two pairs per foot, at least three pairs of Spanx, and if you are performing within the first two days, add a cold-weather, deep-sea diver’s wet suit. Now, granted, you’re going to look a little silly at the airport and lets not kid ourselves, you’re gonna look funny on the plane too, but that’s the length you’ve sometimes got to go to look your best onstage.


Tomorrow is opening night, which is always exciting no matter how many times you’ve performed a ballet in your life. A new audience can somehow breathe new life in to a work that you thought had peaked. It may be the new stage dimensions that cause you to dance a little differently, it may be the new dressing-room assignments that gave you a different pre-performance conversation, or it may be seeing how a different culture reacts to your style of dancing.


Whatever it is that causes you to feel that extra spark while you’re onstage is definitely something that you should try to identify and hold on to. Like a lot of things in life, repetition can cause you to feel a little dull or stale, and these moments that refresh you and make you remember why it is that you love what you do are forever valuable.


Headshot by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB