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Perfect pointe: Ballet dancer Sisi Qiu (2)

By Chen Jie (China Daily)

10:51, January 18, 2013

She was the oldest and tallest in the ballet class in Guangzhou, training under Peng Wu - who was among the first group of contemporary dancers in China, along with Jin Xing and Shen Wei.

Although she started later than others in her class, the gifted Qiu soon stood out and became Peng's favorite student.

When Qiu was 10, Peng took his students to perform in Hong Kong. Among the 12 programs, Qiu performed as lead dancer in eight.

She came to a crossroads when she was entering middle school. Her father wanted her to live a normal life because of her excellent grades - he had wished her to be a doctor or lawyer someday.

"My father used the pyramid to illustrate the career progression of a ballerina - unless you reach the top, you will be nobody. He asked me whether I was ready for it. I was too young to understand. I said 'Yes, I want to dance'," she recalls.

And in 1995, following Peng's recommendation, Qiu left home for Shanghai Ballet School. Based on her age, Qiu was admitted into the third grade.

Compared to her classmates who had received two years of systematic training, Qiu's only coaching was dancing once a week with Peng's amateur team. From being a lead dancer, Qiu descended to being the ugly duckling in the new class.

To catch up with the rest, she worked extra hard, dancing when others were taking afternoon naps or shopping on weekends. Life was tough. Being alone in Shanghai, she also suffered from bad homesickness.

But five years later, her break came, and all her tears and effort paid off. During a trip to Germany, Peng gave the famous German ballerina Birgit Keil a video of Qiu's performance.

Keil, who was also director of the Academy of Dance of the Mannheim University of Music and Performing Arts, liked what she saw and offered Qiu a scholarship.

From 2000 to 2003, Qiu studied under Keil. "I learned not only the techniques, but also how to dance with emotions and how to portray a character," Qiu says.

Upon graduation, she auditioned at the prestigious Bavarian State Ballet - the greenest among the 400 hopefuls. Many of them were already professional dancers.

"I just did my best," she says.

She did not even realize that she had passed the audition when she was asked to perform a modern piece with nine other finalists. After the dance, a guy came up to her and said, "congratulations!" He was Ivan Liska, director of Bavarian State Ballet.

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