Interview with the stars

YU Wanqing

They are the undisputed stars at SWAN LAKE: YU Wanqing and CHEN Dong. As swan princess and prince they literally take an outstanding position.

How did you start your acrobatic and ballet career?
YU Wanqing: Ever since I can remember, I wanted to become a dancer. At the age of 13 years, I saw „the dance on the shoulder“ for the first time. Since then I have been dreaming to be able to do the same. When I then came to the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe and to SWAN LAKE, I first took over the part of the black swan. Now, after five years training, I am glad to perform the white swan on stage.
CHEN Dong: Since 1999 I am part of the Guangdong Acrobatic Troupe. In the beginning I was not designed for the role of the prince. But the troupe leader was convinced that I am the right one for this role. That was the beginning of my career as acrobat and ballet dancer.

What is your personal favourite part of SWAN LAKE? 
YU Wanqing: The 2nd act particularly pleases me. There the swan princess meets her prince for the first time and they immediately dance deeply in love with each other. This is very romantic – like a fairy tale. And I also love the music in this act very much. Above all the duet of violin and cello.
CHEN Dong: My favourite is the 1st act. Here the main focus is on the acrobatic skill. The action is simple and the spirit is jolly. That pleases me.

For SWAN LAKE acrobats were trained as ballet dancers and ballet dancers as acrobats. Was the training harder for the acrobats or for the ballet dancers?
YU Wanqing:
That is hard to tell. Without concentration and devotion no artist has success – no matter if he is an acrobat or a dancer.

What is the most difficult, the greatest challenge of SWAN LAKE?
CHEN Dong:
The greatest challenge is to harmonize the beauty and poetry of the ballet with the acrobatic performance.

Can you imagine an acrobatic number which is even more difficult than the toe dance on head?
YU Wanqing:
The toe dance on head really is an extreme act. Here you can test, how far acrobatic can go at all. But it also tempts to think of further possibilities within this field.

How do you stay fit for this physically extremely demanding show?
YU and CHEN:
Long time training every day and a little control on food. That’s not a big issue.

How do you prepare mentally for such a show?
YU and CHEN:
If one has to perform as many shows as within this tour, there is of course a little fear. But we mentally prepare ourselves for each show as if it was the first time on stage. Thus one becomes not careless and is on stage with all the heart.

What do you do against stage fright?
CHEN Dong:
I am rather calm on stage. If I should get nervous I try to concentrate on the next step.
YU Wanqing: Before the show I am always a little bit afraid and I also have stage fright. But as soon as I enter the stage I only think of my role and forget all the fear.

You both work together professionally for many years – did you come closer personally, too?
CHEN Dong:
We trained nearly seven years with each other. In this time it is quite normal to clash with someone. But we are good friends and can talk about everything.
YU Wanqing: Dong is ten years older than me. For me he is like a big brother.

What do you like most about Wanqing?
CHEN Dong:
She is smart and beautiful. She loves her job and is a great person.

And what do you like most about Dong?
YU Wanqing:
Everybody is saying that he is very handsome. But I don’t really realize that (laughing). Seriously he is far more than a prince on stage. He is an adorable and honest person, and I completely trust him.

And how does it feel to be „tattooed“ by your partner on the shoulder and to sustain bruises day per day?
CHEN Dong:
The scar on my shoulder is not worth talking about. For me these meanwhile completely insensitive parts are like visible memories of the past.

What do you miss most when you are on tour abroad?
YU Wanqing:
A lot. But most of all I miss my friends, my family and my puppy dog.
CHEN Dong: Me too, I miss my family and my friends. And of course my girlfriend. 

And what do you miss when you are back in China?
YU and CHEN:
The enthusiasm and applause of the audience. For an artist there is nothing more exciting.

Thank you for the nice and straightforward conversation!