A sixth former who loves Chinese folk dancing has won recognition and the South China Morning Post Student Dancer of the Year Award. Lily Poon Kin-lee, a student of Sacred Heart Canossian College, beat eight other finalists to grab the prestigious title. 'I'm so happy. It seems unreal,' said the 16-year-old. She performed a piece from the Chinese ethnic minority Thai tribe in Yunnan province. The dance portrays a girl who blissfully strolls home in a graceful manner in the sunshine after a brief shower. Kin-lee immediately fell for the dance when she saw it on video last summer. She then learned it as her first solo piece with an instructor from the renowned Beijing Dance Academy and first performed it at the Schools Dance Festival last month. 'The Thai people have a reverent admiration for rain. It is this beautiful sense of admiration embodied in the dance that attracts me. I find its movements express a kind of beauty, merriment and simplicity,' Kin-lee said. This connection to the spirit of the tribe enabled Kin-lee to convey an 'inner feeling' that impressed the judging panel consisting of Susan Street, dean of dance at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Pun Siu-fai, education and outreach director at City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), and Yau Yuk-ching at the Dance Gallery. Ms Street said in Kin-lee's performance, there was 'something that grabs you, touches something in you' and one need not be a dance expert to see it. 'She is technically assured. She has a very obvious and natural sense of expression. She has reached quite a high level in terms of technicality and artistry,' said Ms Street. Mr Pun said: 'She successfully expresses her own feelings through the unique style of the dance and its music,' said Ms Yau. 'She has chosen a dance that suits her. She can bring out the feeling of softness, vulnerability and grace that characterise the dance . . . It is the way she interprets it which distinguishes her.' He said there was no preference for any dance form in the judging criteria. 'She is very talented and has good potential in terms of technical standard. Yet, you can see the energy she gives out is still quite raw,' he said. Kin-lee will have the opportunity to improve her skills in the 10 dance classes sponsored by CCDC as her prize in addition to a $20,000 Citibank scholarship and two British Airways return tickets to Manila. She would like to be a professional dancer but said it was not a promising career in Hong Kong, especially for Chinese folk dancers. She would have to go to Beijing if she wanted to learn dancing, she said. This year, contestants performed more diverse styles, ranging from ballet, modern and folk dances to improvisations, whereas three-quarters of them performed ballet three years ago, said Mr Pun. He said the general standard of the contestants had also improved, with more of them choreographing the steps and being more assertive in expressing themselves. Runner-up Liu Chin-pong, 16, of Shatin Tsung Tsin Secondary School, performed a modern dance he himself choreographed to express the struggles he had as a young man wanting to be a dancer. Chin-pong will receive a $5,000 Citibank scholarship.