Inspiration is what drives me. My earliest memory of feeling inspired was through a story my Father told me. An old Chinese proverb, the Frog in the Well, was a tale I never tired of hearing my father re-tell: A little frog who lived his whole life at the bottom of a deep, dark and miserable well.

Throughout his life he was told that the limited patch of sky, the occasional stars and moon were all life has to offer. Until one day, a land frog above told him that there is a bigger and better world up there, far more to explore and enjoy. He refused to believe this until his father confirmed to him that indeed they were born into an unfortunate fate.

Ever since that day, the little frog desperately tried to escape his deep well to no avail.  He dreamed to see the wider world and the wonderful opportunities only exist in his imaginations….

I lived the first 11 years of my life dreaming of those opportunities, tying my dreams and wishes to the tails of handmade kites and releasing them into the sky above the small Chinese village that I grew up in alongside six brothers in abject poverty.

Always inspired by the frog in the well and a desire to see what else the world had to offer me, when I was plucked from poverty and taken to study ballet at Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy I grabbed hold of the opportunity with both hands. That extraordinary opportunity led to an international ballet career, something I don’t think even I could have dreamed of.

That chance afforded to me has driven me to find opportunities for others, to inspire people to dream big, to take chances no matter what stage of life you’re at.

So, what drives me now? Still it’s a desire to inspire and challenge and to leave a legacy for those who will follow in my footsteps.

So, what drives me now? Still it’s a desire to inspire and challenge and to leave a legacy for those who will follow in my footsteps.

In my work with Queensland Ballet it’s about stirring a love of ballet in every age from our tiny dancers that come along to our toddler ballet classes to the other end of the spectrum with our Ballet for Seniors classes.

We started our public dance classes as a way of truly engaging with our community. For us, ballet is about more than the perfected performance on stage, it is about the wider and deeper impact it can have when our community experiences ballet for themselves first hand.

That experience of learning your first ballet step, trying to manoeuvre one’s feet into a good turn-out in first position, attempting an arabesque for the very first time: it’s these experiences that really do instil a heartfelt love of and appreciation for the artform whether you’re two years old or 80.

Our Ballet for Seniors classes started out as an experiment, we weren’t really sure if we’d have a market there.

It didn’t take long at all for us to establish a dedicated group of class regulars from their 50s right through to their 80s. This class was quickly followed by a specialist Dance for Parkinson’s class, a program developed in the States specially designed for those living with Parkinson’s and their carers. The class is a seated class that focuses on movement that is both achievable and challenging for the participants.

We’ve recently had to put on an additional Ballet for Seniors class after we released some research undertaken in collaboration with QUT looking into the benefits of ballet for older people.

The three-month project found participants experienced higher energy levels, greater flexibility, improved posture, and an enhanced sense of achievement. They also felt happier and enjoyed a sense of community and friendship. So it’s no surprise our enrolments have doubled considering those outcomes!

We just love that our community is connecting with us in new ways and experiencing ballet for themselves.

Of course, we hope that translates into them coming to see our performances as a Company as we truly do want to share the gift of ballet with as many people as possible. It still inspires me to watch the faces of those walking out of the theatre after a performance.

If our performances move people, if they provide an escape, if they bring joy and inspire others to follow their dreams, then we’re doing our job and it’s a job that is an absolute privilege to have.