How did May start ballet?

 

I am May and I am originally from Hong Kong. I live and dance in London, UK. I started ballet in 2004, when I was in my early 20s. Strictly speaking I did do some ballet in Hong Kong way back between the ages of around 4 to around 8, but it was not serious training. As an indication, I did not know steps had names, so that gives you an idea of the level of training I had.

I came to London, graduated from university, settled down and started working. I was looking for a way to keep fit while avoiding the gym. So it was in 2004, I was shopping in Central London when I stumbled upon a dance studio holding an adult ballet class. I thought, "Hey, I used to do that when I was young, but here it is a studio full of adults doing it!" I took some pamphlets, went home, did some Googling, and decided I was going to take a plunge and try out some ballet classes. They all looked like they were having fun in the studio and it looked so effortless. But they also looked like they were doing some form of movement so that should satisfy the requirement of "doing some exercise", right?

One class a week became two classes a week, became four classes a week. I was hooked. And I wanted to improve. I also started to go and watch performances. Living in London certainly has its advantages, I started watching a lot of ballet at the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells. Dancing repertoire seemed a bit of a distant dream. I didn't think I would be able to attain their level of technique or artistry, but watching world class dancers certainly gave me inspiration that I could take back to class.

In 2005 I auditioned for the recreational ballet company Balletomane, and I have been a member ever since. That is where I met Natalie Krapf, who has made the dancer I am today. She has provided an opportunity I never thought possible for an adult dancer - performing repertoire. And with that, a strong foundation in technique. It is of course wonderful being able to perform to audiences in costume, in pointe shoes, in tutus, but what was more rewarding was that I knew I was constantly improving my own technique, that I'm doing the choreography justice.

By 2006 I was getting very involved in ballet. I was taking a lot of classes, I was performing with Balletomane, I was going to watch performances. I would book multiple performances of the same production, to see different dancers taking on the same roles. I started being able to name steps as I watch, and making up ballet enchainments in my head. The idea that I might be able to teach one day started budding in my head.

Next time: Summer Intensives