“In Gaynor Mindens, I can dance like a bird. They make me feel as light as air!”
Just a few years ago, she was a newcomer to the United States who spoke no English. Today, Gaynor Minden wearer Zhong-Jing Fang is a rising star in one of the country’s most prestigious professional ballet companies, American Ballet Theatre (ABT).
Her journey from Shanghai, China to New York, NY is one of hard work and perseverance, motivated by a great love of dance. As a child, Zhong-Jing watched ballet on television with her family and was immediately drawn to it. Her mother saw an ad for the Shanghai Ballet School auditions; from a pool of more than 2000 students from all over China, ten year old Zhong-Jing was one of only eighteen dancers accepted into the school. She studied there for seven years, going on pointe at age twelve. Her schedule included half a day of ballet and half a day of academics, including music classes of both Chinese and Western traditions.
Russian-trained at the Shanghai school, Zhong-Jing went on to the Performing Arts College of Shanghai Drama University, where she was a Ballet major. Her career began to take off when she won the Grand Prize in her first ballet competition, the acclaimed Prix de Lausanne 2000. From there she went on to win the Rudolph Nureyev Foundation Prize at the 9th International Ballet Competition in Paris in December 2000. Adding to these honors, Zhong-Jing won 1st prize at both the 2001 Shanghai International Ballet Competition and in the Junior Division at the 2001 Helsinki International Ballet Competition in Finland. As she reflected on her experiences at all of these competitions, Zhong-Jing said that they opened her eyes to other dancers across the world, preparing her for a future of international touring and dancing opportunities.
In 2002, Zhong-Jing sent videotapes and her resume to ABT’s Studio Company and was accepted there that same year. Additionally, 2002 was also the first year she began wearing Gaynor Mindens. Within a short time, she was invited to be an Apprentice in ABT’s main company (2003), moving into the Corps de Ballet in 2004. Since her arrival at ABT, Zhong-Jing has performed solo roles in Coppelia and A Pretty Good Year as well as leading roles inSymphonic Variations, Les Sylphides, and Kaleidoscope, among others. She has also danced the Hungarian Princess in Swan Lake and a Fairy Variation in The Sleeping Beauty.
Some of the adjustments that Zhong-Jing had to make when she started dancing at ABT included working on a tighter fifth position and focusing on the dramatic and expressive aspects of performing, as well as on the technical requirements of each piece. According to Zhong-Jing, dancing in an American ballet company and switching to Gaynor Mindens have both changed her dancing. With her Gaynor Mindens, she observed that “it’s easy for me to just think ‘dance.'” In previous pointe shoes, Zhong-Jing had to worry about breaking in her shoes and the long process that involved. With Gaynor Mindens, she says every pair is comfortable and gives her great balance. She has no worries when en pointe, allowing her greater freedom in her dancing.
When not in the dance studio, Zhong-Jing likes to relax in the park, watch movies, read, shop, and listen to music, especially classical. She greatly misses her very supportive and proud parents in China and talks to them about twice a week.
As Zhong-Jing considers her future, she mentioned that watching the current ABT principal dancers has been very inspiring, especially Julie Kent and Alessandra Ferri. Zhong-Jing aspires to dance the roles of Odette/Odile inSwan Lake and Giselle in Giselle. Her advice to young dancers is to “believe in yourself, work hard, and persevere.”
Photos by Eduardo Patino, NYC