How Shanghai 'gave me a place to take root in the arts'

Ong Jing Yi
Ballet dancer Zhu Jiejing came to Shanghai alone at the age of 9. Her youth was tinged with pain and challenges, but it all contributed to her success today.
Ong Jing Yi

Ti Gong

Zhu Jiejing performs in dance theater "Crested Ibis."

Personal profile

Zhu Jiejing was born in October, 1985 in Jiaxing of Zhejiang Province.

She was recruited by Shanghai Dance School at 9. In 2001, she entered Shanghai Dance Theater. By her second year, Zhu gained the Lotus Award, the top award for dance in China. She played the female lead in the Chinese dance production of Farewell My Concubine in the same year. By 2008, Zhu became the principal dancer of Shanghai Dance Theater.

Zhu starred in a series of original productions, including Wild Zebra and Crested Ibis. Accumulating countless on-stage experiences and professional guidance, Zhu was widely-recognized for her one-of-a-kind dance persona and received praise for her outstanding performances in the dance realm.

She has devoted her youth and rigor in dance to illustrate the prolific changes since the reform and opening-up days.

My story

In 1995, I came to Shanghai Dance School alone. For a 9-year-old girl without much life experience, that required a lot of courage. As none of my family members came from arts backgrounds, they wanted me to take the traditional route — one that was stable and safe.

It was stressful to break the sudden news to my parents about leaving for an "unpredictable" future. At that time, dancing and the arts were barely considered a proper profession — people could only think of it as a hobby.

However, I was adamant to leave home. Dancing symbolized the beauty of life, and attaining it was my dream.

I was the last batch of students to receive public funding in dance education. Despite the stringent criteria during the audition, I was lucky to be that one in a thousand to be selected.

Ti Gong

A picture of Zhu Jiejing in her childhood.

Nothing could stop me from achieving my goals.

My days in the Shanghai Dance School were surrounded by the idea of "less play, more pain." Every spin, step, practice, rehearsal, performance, injury, hostel, studio and stage came together to form my youth.

The reality of dance was not as fanciful as I had envisioned it to be. The dance school I first entered had poor amenities. Everything from the flooring to the railings were made of wood that became infested with bugs over time. The walls were not sound-proofed so our practices would be disturbed by the sounds of next door.

Till today, this city continues to nourish me with more than I could ask for. It gave me a place to take root in the arts. This place is where my limelight, friendships and career took flight.

I envy the young generations of today. How fortunate are they to be given a great learning environment to dance.

Ti Gong

Zhu Jiejing performs in dance theater "Crested Ibis."

Hongqiao Road is no longer the forsaken land of its past. Shanghai is indeed a city that makes anything possible. In a matter of years, the Shanghai International Dance Center at Hongqiao 1650 has taken a completely new façade and claimed an international name. So much had been invested, giving us no reason not to do our best.

Almost in the blink of an eye, I have been dancing for twenty years. It’s quite unbelievable to witness how I have managed through all those challenges since day one.

At 30 years of age, 'Crested Ibis' came to me at the perfect time. My dancing partners and I constantly polished and explored ways to portray the unique movements of the animal through classical dance moves. With that, I know my artistic style has dived into a deeper phase.

The essence of my art form lies in my sincerity. Societal reform and improvements have contributed to my many breakthroughs. I will continuously re-establish myself to prepare for new appearances.

The door of opportunity may have opened, but what lies ahead is even more exciting. It is our responsibility to work hand-in-hand with the consecutive generations in front of us to paint an even brighter future for our city.

Ti Gong

Zhu Jiejing (left) speaks at a training course.



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