“To be perfect is impossible, but to be better is possible.” – Yuan Yuan Tan
The first chapter of Yuan Yuan Tan’s dance career literally hinged on a coin toss. The 11-year-old was among a small group of students selected for the prestigious Shanghai Dancing School–despite the fact that she had no dance experience at the time. Tan’s mother approved of the plan, but her father did not. He wanted her to be a doctor or engineer. Believers in fate, her parents decided to flip a coin. Dance won.
Tan was behind at the school and struggled at first, often just watching other students from the corner. But then a teacher recognized her natural talent and gave her private lessons. Soon enough, Tan excelled. She started entering and winning awards at ballet competitions, though she found the stress to be challenging. Yet, it was at competitions that San Francisco Ballet director Helgi Tomasson first spotted her. He invited her to join the company as a soloist. Two years later, she was promoted to principal- the youngest dancer to achieve this status in the history of the company.
Like many dancers, Tan is a perfectionist. She began working the character of Giselle when she was 15, and only recently has become happy with her interpretation of it. She told the San Francisco Gate: “I have learned to be patient. Things don’t always happen the way one wishes they would. A career takes time, the same as in real life.”
Tan is one of the most prominent Asian ballerinas in world today and has been described as the “best dancer to ever emerge from China”. Along with dancers like ABT’s Misty Copeland, she was listed among the Huffington Post’s “17 Ballet Icons Who Are Changing The Face Of Dance Today”.
- Audrey Hepburn is one of her style icons
- In ballet class, she puts her pointe shoes on during barre frappés
- Her ballet inspirations include Natalia Makarova and Galina Ulanova
Follow Tan on:
Tan performing Esmeralda Variation as a student:
Yuan Yuan Tan Principal Highlight Video
Tan in Symphonic Dances Pas de Deux
Tan Performs Jessica Lang Choreography
San Fransisco Gate’s 2015 Article on Tan
Inside Tan’s Dance Bag
Tan’s Interview with 48 Hours Magazine (Hong Kong)
TimeOut Hong Kong’s Interview with Tan
Net-a-Porter’s Interview with Tan