Cuban Ballet Dancer Pursues Career in China

ByWang Shasha July 5, 2021
Cuban Ballet Dancer Pursues Career in China
Yipsy(C) and other Cuban ballet teachers


Sanya Yipsy Ballet Art Center (Yipsy Balletto) is a special ballet school in Sanya, in South China's Hainan Province. Why? All of the ballet teachers are from Cuba. Yipsy Trujillo Gonzalez, founder and art director of the art center, moved to Sanya eight years ago. She has not only established her career in the city, but she has also played a role in promoting cultural exchanges between China and Cuba.

"Lift your jaw and point down your toes," Yipsy says in Mandarin, as she instructs her students during a ballet class. Yipsy is a gentle and amiable teacher. She always greets her students with a nice smile before class, and she always helps them tie up their hair.

Yipsy, who began studying ballet at the age of 8, was once a member of the National Ballet of Cuba, one of the world's most prestigious ballet dance troupes. She began forming her bond with Sanya in 2013. In April that year, Yipsy and her then-colleagues of the National Ballet of Cuba were invited to perform and work at a theater in Sanya for a few years.

"To be honest, when I first arrived in Sanya, I didn't plan to settle down here. Working at the theater in Sanya added a different color to my life. But I didn't feel like I fit in the city with the locals during the first two years," Yipsy recalls.

It wasn't until 2015, when she met a Chinese man, Liu Maosheng, that Yipsy began to discover and experience the true beauty of the city. Liu came from Northeast China's Liaoning Province. They eventually married and settled down in Sanya.

One day, in 2017, one of Yipsy's friends asked her to help a five-year-old Chinese girl, Fu Yao, improve her ballet dance skills, as Fu was going to attend an international children's ballet competition. Under Yipsy's guidance, the girl made remarkable progress within more than four months, and she won the top prize during the ballet competition.

Yipsy felt encouraged. In 2018, she and Liu decided to establish a ballet-training center. "I want to bring the most beautiful skills and the sincerest feelings to Chinese children," Yipsy says.

Yipsy adopts interesting and enlightening ways to teach children, and she has strict requirements, especially in terms of her students' hairstyles, nails and dresses. "I hope our students understand that teachers have respect and awe for ballet. I also hope the students can follow the example of their teachers," she says.

"Nothing can be accomplished without norms or standards. It is the same with ballet. Ballet is about rules and attitude. Ballet dancers' gestures and moves embody the unique ballet culture."

Cuban Ballet Dancer Pursues Career in China
Yipsy with her student


Given her expertise and effective teaching approach, Yipsy has won the trust of Chinese parents, and the locals are willing to send their children to learn ballet at the center.

"My child learns ballet at the center, and she enjoys it. The center has a favorable environment. The teachers are professional, and they are strict during class. Just as the proverb goes, 'A strict teacher produces outstanding students.' I hope ballet will be a lifetime hobby for my child," one parent wrote on a Chinese rating and review website.

The art center now has two branches in Sanya, and a total of five Cuban ballet teachers. Yipsy and her teachers, combined, have taught more than 500 Chinese students to date, including children and adults.

The year 2020 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Cuba. Cuba was the first country in the Western Hemisphere to establish diplomatic ties with China. The booming cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been adding fresh impetus to bilateral relations.

"In the past, many Chinese might not have known Cuba had a lot of excellent ballet dancers and teachers. I hope, in the future, I can bring my Chinese students to Cuba, so they can attend classes and participate in various activities with Cuban students, and they can better understand the hometowns of their Cuban ballet teachers. I think we are like a bridge that connects China and Cuba," Yipsy says.


Photos Supplied by Yipsy Balletto

(Women of China English Monthly May 2021 issue)


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