Thinking back, he really doesn't understand how he managed it, but at the time, Ruochen Wang did not question his militaristic-striking, Russian-oriented ballet training at the Guangdong Dance School. "I had only one goal and that was to become a dancer."
Ruochen is 11 when he arrives at the school in Guangzhou, an hour and a half's flight from his parents' home. Five years earlier, he attends his first boarding school, where he is introduced to dance during the extracurricular programme. His teacher recognised his talent and suggested a professional dance education. "I was immediately enthusiastic. Dancing all day? Why not! My parents had a hard time with it though. Their only child even further from home? And what could you do with dance training at all, was there any way you could earn a living?"
Six years later, Ruochen was accepted at the Guangzhou Ballet. He was soon offered great roles in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and La Bayadère, but Ruochen had his doubts. "I'm small, I don't have the ideal ballet body. What would my chances be? I didn't want to put all my energy into something that could only happen.
After dancing professionally for three years, he applied for the modern dance programme at The Hong Kong School of Performing Arts. "A huge shock: the huge crowds in Hong Kong, the Western life, the English language." When the school is invited to perform in Monte-Carlo, another culture shock follows: Ruochen is offered a contract in Graz. Later, he also dances in Brussels and Basel.
If you are curious, there is so much to discover.
In Basel, he meets Ed Wubbe, who is rehearsing his production Holland there. "We immediately had a good chemistry. Since I left China, I have been looking for the freedom to express myself through dance, and Ed gives me that space like no other. He challenges you not only to keep exploring physically, but also theatrically and emotionally. For me, that is extremely valuable.
Every new creation is a highlight, because I learn and experience new things every time. Curiosity is important to him anyway. "If you're curious, there's so much to discover, and that's what life's about, otherwise you quickly become a kind of robot."
- 1988, Xiamen, China
- Guangdong Dance School, China
- The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Hongkong
- Previously danced at
- Guangzhou Ballet, China
- Ballett Oper Graz, Austria
- Compagnie THOR, Belgium
- Ballett Theater Basel, Switzerland
- At Scapino since
My parents don't really understand what I do as a dancer, but as long as they know I'm happy, that's enough for them.
Photography fascinates him - "I like to capture the moment" - and during the coronal shockdown he started taking pottery classes for the first time. "That's like meditating for me." He does not yet have any concrete plans for after his dancing career - "hopefully that will take some time" - but he would like to combine all his interests in a next challenge.
When he first moved to Europe, he never thought of going back to his homeland, but now he is more interested in what his roots mean to him and he likes the idea of living half in China and half in Europe. "Because of corona, I have not been home for three years. Being at home on my island (Xiamen - ed.) means that I can recharge my batteries. The wonderful weather, my own language, the food, the smells, the whole package that makes you realise: I am home again."
Photography: Khalid Amakran | Interview: Astrid van Leeuwen