Teens put books aside to chase Bolshoi dream

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 August, 2010, 12:00am

Two teenagers aspiring to be ballerinas have overcome their parents' objections to follow their hearts and their dream - all the way to a prestigious ballet school in Russia.

Josephine Cheung Ching-nga, 16, and Shirley Pu Wei-hsuan, 18, are the first Hong Kong students to be admitted to a three-year full-time diploma programme at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. The school accepted them after viewing videos showcasing the young dancers' strong foundation skills.

The teens have been friends for five years, studying together at the Jean M Wong School of Ballet. They both hope to be principal dancers in dance troupes abroad.

Starting next month, they will spend nine hours a day at the Bolshoi academy, studying the Russian language and culture as well as ballet.

Cheung, who has finished Form Five at Maryknoll Convent School, said, 'I'm very happy, because this is such a famous school.'

She received the Dame Margot Fonteyn Award of the Tsinforn C. Wong Memorial Scholarship, which was set up by Jean Wong, principal of the school that bears her name, in memory of her father. The award will cover the first year of tuition fees at the Bolshoi: Euro12,500 (HK$123,500).

Wong said: 'Many great dancers come from [the academy], and with training from there, you can basically join any dance troupe you want.'

Cheung started ballet at the age of three and continued with her training even during the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination. Her commitment impressed her father, an engineer, and mother, who works at the Labour Tribunal.

'They said I shouldn't focus on just dancing and pay attention to my studies [instead]. But they've seen my performances and they understand my dedication,' Cheung said, admitting that she was not a great fan of hitting the books.

Her friend Pu had a tougher time convincing her father, a businessman. Pu, who graduated from Diocesan Girls' School with flying colours in her HKCEE, has been struggling to pursue her ballet dreams while meeting family expectations.

She said her parents wanted her to take a normal educational path, so she stopped her ballet training for a year during Form Five and then enrolled in the Hang Seng School of Commerce last year. But her heart was not in it, and she sent her application to the Bolshoi academy.

'I know this is my last chance, and I do not want to give up on the chance to make my own choice for my own future,' Pu said. 'My parents doubt if I'm making the right decision, and they are worried that I'm giving up a stable life. But I will give my best in the coming three years. I want to be a professional dancer, and I can always study when I retire.'