JULY 2011
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American Ballet Competition in Austin, Texas – June 2011

photo1Travelling 26 hours across several continents to the United States for a ballet competition seemed a long way for 2-3 minutes of performance… but that long trip marked the beginning of an experience that made the many months of practice and sacrifice worthwhile!

Intense training under Hsienfa & Yaling began in the 2nd half of last year, and before we knew it, the 26th of May 2011 rolled round….Time to set off for Orlando, Florida! My daughter, Deborah, and I, together with eight other mother-daughter pairs and the Chengs (Hsienfa, Yaling & Leo) formed the Cheng Ballet Academy contingent of 21. Our first stop was the World Ballet Competition in Orlando, where Sarah, Natalie and Moeka competed in solo competitions alongside many gifted ballet dancers from various U.S. states and other countries. Although Deborah did not take part in this competition, I could tell from our night-time conversations that she was awed and inspired just watching the dancers and observing the rigour of competition.

photo2Most mornings, Hsienfa & Yaling would whisk the girls off into the dance studio for training & rehearsals, while the mothers had no trouble busying themselves with other pursuits that Orlando had to offer. Free afternoons were spent together – shopping, eating, bonding... But by evening time, when the competitions started, the Cheng Ballet contingent went in full force to support our girls who were competing.

At this point, I'd like to say to Sarah, Natalie and Moeka – it was a privilege to watch you dance in such an international arena. I'm sure you know that we are so proud of you and how well you performed at the World Ballet Competition!

photo3On 1st & 2nd June 2011, the Cheng Ballet contingent then made their way across to Austin, Texas for the American Ballet Competition. Kai Hui, Charmaine, Sarah, Natalie & Moeka took part in the various category solo competitions, while Andrea, Leann, Samantha & Deborah geared up for their part in "Bach" – Cheng Ballet Academy's entry for Division II : Ensemble category. The American Ballet Competition included daily Master classes for all competitors, during which solo dance competitors were assessed and graded as a segment of the overall competition. As I sat and observed Deborah, her friends and all the other competitors in the Master class, I was impressed by the universal language of dance. At the start of each exercise, the Ballet Master gave some quick instructions, and as soon as the pianist threw in the music and rhythm, all the ballet dancers (from U.S., U.K., Panama & Singapore) dived straight into the exercise with no hesitation. It was not obvious from the dance movements that these girls and boys were actually from different dance schools, different countries!
photo4The daily routine in Austin seemed more intense – Master classes in the mornings, followed by competition in the afternoons. However, it wasn't all work and no play, especially for the mothers who still managed to enjoy little café pleasures around the Ballet Austin venue, make limited trips to the shops (even the museum for some) and organise exploratory dinner outings to try local cuisine.

To the 9 Cheng Ballet girls - I applaud you for taking on all that pressure in your stride and being able to differentiate time for "play" versus time to focus at that last stretch which culminated from months of preparation. You have made us proud. You've shown unwavering passion for ballet & dance, learnt intangible lessons during this whole experience, and demonstrated that you have unrelenting determination to work hard! That 3rd place award for "Bach" was just a sweetener to top it off!

photo5So by the time the Cheng Ballet contingent parted ways on 6 June – some to extended family vacations while the rest headed home, we were glad to have come this far… to have travelled the 26 hours across to the U.S. as well as the eventual 26 hours back. For Deborah, she felt she had learnt and noted things that will make a lasting impression in her passion for dance, gained insight into the mental strength needed to stay focused at such international competitions, as well as made good friends resulting from a common love for ballet. For me, I cherish the friendships I have made on this trip and am ever grateful for God's blessings and gift of dance, without which, Deborah and I would not have returned home richer for the experience.

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To Hsienfa & Yaling – who patiently taught Deborah and gave her this learning opportunity and to the 8 mothers & their daughters - Thank you!