Feature: Shall we dance? A Chinese ballerino does his part to help COVID-19 fight

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 27, 2020
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by Xinhua writer Gao Lu

HOUSTON, April 26 (Xinhua) -- At 11 a.m. sharp, Chun Wai Chan turns on his camera and begins to dance with music while livestreaming. At the other end of the Internet, hundreds of people across the world follow him, stretching and jumping.

In the past weeks, the one-hour free ballet class from Monday to Friday has become Chun Wai Chan's "new job." As a principal dancer with Houston Ballet, Chun Wai Chan has to stay at home like others in the country to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Encouraged by his fans from social media, Chan came up with the idea of online ballet class.

"I was among the first to offer free online dance class in the United States," Chan told Xinhua during a recent phone interview. "I said yes when some followers in social media asked me if I can do that."

"Trust me," wrote Chan on Instagram. "I am an expert at taking ballet class at home."

Dance Magazine promoted Chan's virtual lessons on its website, along with other distinguished dancers.

His first class on March 18 attracted more than 500 followers worldwide.

Chan's ballet dream began at age 12 when he joined Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts in south China's Guangdong province, where he was born.

In 2010, Chan entered the Prix de Lausanne, an international competition for young dancers held annually in Switzerland. After finishing as a finalist in the contest, he received a full scholarship offer from Houston Ballet Academy to study at Houston Ballet's second company HBII.

Chan rose quickly in the company and was promoted to principal dancer in 2017, one of the four in the position.

Like so many of his generation around the world, Chan loved to connect people via social media. Some say Chan dances up a storm on Instagram, where he has more than 42,000 followers.

Chan may be an influencer on social media, but online teaching is brand new to him. "I can't see my students while teaching, this is the biggest obstacle," Chan said.

A traditional face-to-face dancing class usually has only a few students, but there is virtually no limit on the number of people taking an online class. Helping students with different abilities and backgrounds, Chan has no choice but to communicate with them one by one after class.

"Everyone is different and it's impossible to take care of everyone's need in one-hour class. Therefore, I'll respond to my student's questions after class. It at least helps me adjust my next lesson," said Chan.

Every day, Chan spends around three hours on social media, recording, livestreaming and chatting with students. Although tiring, he enjoys the process and learns from it.

"It's like playing video games by interacting with my students. The more time you spend, the more you gain," he said.

The coronavirus may keep people physically isolated, but no one should feel the distance emotionally. For Chan, the online class has opened a new window, bringing him closer to his followers.

"I have students all over the globe. Some have difficulties learning dancing in their country, but they can follow me online," he said.

The young artist has never felt his life so meaningful. "Some parents said their children's dancing skills have improved a lot. Others said I brought them sunshine and happiness during this difficult time." Chan said all the feedbacks he got were positive, making him confident to continue.

There is an "invert relationship" between mind and body, said Houston-based psychotherapist Moni Tang. "Dancing or other exercise from home can not only maintain blood flow and keep us physically active, but also calm down our mind and reduce anxiety in this pandemic."

Teaching online has now become an important part of Chan's life. "Thinking about someone has changed and is waiting for me in front of a computer gives me strength and determination," he said.

Chan has decided to keep up his free online classes even when the difficult situation ends.

"I'll probably have classes on weekends since I need to train seven hours every day at Houston Ballet. But I'll definitely keep doing this because this is the future," he said. Enditem

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