Life + Arts

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Dancer develops moves, mind

As a child, Houston Ballet student Liao Xiang did not take ballet seriously.

In her hometown of Wuhan, China, ballet was regarded as a strict discipline. Dancers needed perfect technique and bodies to pursue a career.

At a young age, Liao was enrolled in the Beijing Dance Academy, but it wasn’t until she witnessed her father’s friend, Cui Lan Liu, dancing in a park that she fully understood the passion of ballet.

‘She was the first person who inspired me,’ Liao said in an e-mail. ‘She was not even a professional dancer, but she loves it. I always remember her face when she danced. From her, I first felt the love and passion of dance.’

At the Beijing Dance Academy, Liao learned proper training and technical skills. The atmosphere of the academy and the professional growth Liao achieved taught her how to act as a ballet student.

‘I grew up at the Beijing Dance Academy,’ Liao said. ‘It taught me how to get along with people around me.’

After spending several years at the Beijing Dance Academy, Liao was awarded a scholarship to the Harid Conservatory in Boca Raton, Fla.

Liao soon embarked on her journey from China to the U.S. in hopes of pursuing a career in ballet. When she arrived to the U.S., she learned aspects of dance she had never learned in her home country.

‘American dance gives you more freedom, personality, passion and imagination,’ Liao said.

With the freedom to express herself and the ability to alter her imagination through American dance, Liao was able to find her niche and learn English. After studying at Harid Conservatory for a few months, she decided to fulfill her goal of attending Houston Ballet Ben Stevenson Academy.

‘I auditioned there because I heard it’s a really good place for young dancers. They work a lot with classical and contemporary dance and I wanted to give it a try,’ Liao said.

‘When I got in, I got this feeling of how I had been working and hoping for one thing a lot and when I finally got it, I was very happy.’

With the transition from Florida to Houston, Liao moved into a ballet residence hall with five other dancers. Liao said although her family is not with her, she still has support from the people around her.

‘Last year I broke my arm, and even with all the hard times I’ve had here, there have been people who help me,’ she said. ‘Everyone tries to take care of me, and that makes me feel that although I am away from my real family, I am still not alone.’

Liao said the growth she has accumulated from her journey in American ballet has changed her for the better.

‘I’ve changed more spiritually,’ Liao said. ‘I changed a lot of my opinions and understanding about dance. I learned how to really dance, how to work with a partner and how to express myself to the audience. I feel really lucky to be here and get to know all these people in Houston.’

Living out her dream, Liao will perform a leading role in ‘Grand Pas de Deux’ from La Bayadere at 8 p.m. July 30 and 31 at the San Jacinto Community College Proscenium Theater. The show will focus on the talents of 270 dancers from 40 states and 10 countries in this intensive summer showcase.

Ticket prices range from $10 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, call 713-535-3210.

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