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-de-force 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 top- grade 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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