Hong Kong-born dancer and choreographer Abby Chan Man-yee likes taking risks and believes artistic creation is born from experience. 'I never calculate [gains and losses] when doing things,' said the 35-year-old, who won the Hong Kong Dance Award this year for her choreography of Pipe Dream and was included in the Hong Kong Dance Hall of Fame. 'Every experience is valuable to me, no matter whether it is good or bad.' As a freelancer, she knows all about taking risks. Having given up a steady job and pay package from the City Contemporary Dance Company in 1998, Chan went to Australia and the United States to dance and broaden her horizons. She is now based in New York, from where she ventures to perform in different countries. At the moment she is in Seoul, appearing in the Little Asia Dance Exchange Network's performance of Solo Animal. 'An open mind is very important. If you are too narrow-minded, you cannot be creative. Working with different people gives me the ability to accept different styles, instead of being stereotyped.' Born into a family with no art background, she had no formal dance training until the age of 19, when her sister dragged her along to a jazz class. There, she met a teacher from the Academy of Performing Arts who encouraged her to enrol at the academy, where she was offered three dance disciplines - ballet, Chinese traditional and modern dance. 'I had no training in ballet and I had no idea of Chinese traditional dance, so modern dance became my choice.' Despite having doubts about her choice at first, once she had taken her first steps she fell in love with it. 'Modern dance is about contemporary stories. It's closer to the people and closer to me. [It] is more about oneself. It has no age limit. Even when you are old, you can still use your body to express yourself in different ways.' The rigours of modern dance means that a slim Chan does not have to worry about watching what she eats. 'I eat a lot. Modern dance has a high demand on endurance. You have to take in enough food.' She prefers choreographing to dancing. 'I like to have control in my hands,' said Chan, who founded her own dance company Mcmuimui Dansemble in 1996 with another well-known Hong Kong dancer, Yeung Wai-mei. As an independent artist, Chan has no guarantee of what her earnings will be and agonises over securing financial backing. But luckily for her, she has a simple lifestyle and a supportive husband. 'Compared with some of my friends, I spend much less on cosmetics and clothes. Dancing keeps me young.'