Wei Wang on Being the First Chinese Male Principal at San Francisco Ballet

December 29, 2022

Growing up in Anshan, Liaoning, China, I was raised in a family that had limited knowledge of the arts. The idea of dancing was first introduced to me when my parents attended a middle school reunion and found out their classmate had opened a dance studio. That classmate offered my parents free dance classes for me, and from there my journey began.

At age 10, I took a train to Beijing with my parents to audition for the Beijing Dance Academy. After the audition, there were two options: Chinese traditional dance and classical ballet. I spoke with my parents, and I chose the classical ballet program. Well, ballet really chose me.

I knew little about classical ballet and had no clue where this journey would take me. I spent the next seven years at the Beijing­ Dance Academy and soon realized how powerful and expressive the art form is. When I saw San Francisco Ballet perform, I knew that it was the company where I wanted to be. The creativity, artistry and diversity inspired me to take a chance and try for the company.

Being at San Francisco Ballet for more than 10 years has shown me that classical ballet isn’t just a physical activity; it is a language, a way of expression, and it connects people. Being the first Chinese male principal dancer in the company’s history has allowed me to bring my culture into my work.

Dancing allows me to show my true self and tell stories onstage. I have had the opportunity to work with William Forsythe, Yuri Possokhov and Dwight Rhoden, among others, who have all not only passed on their knowledge, but have given me the chance to express myself in new ways. Dancing roles like Basilio in Don Quixote and Siegfried in Swan Lake allow me to explore other sides of my personality.

It is a challenge, but it always brings me new, fresh and never-felt feelings each time I dance a new role.

That is why I chose this career path. It keeps inspiring me every day.