Shall We Dance?

PETTI FONG This may be a sacrilege at this time of year, but do you ever get bored with The Nutcracker?

CHAN HON GOH It’s one of the ballets that I believe needs to hold true to a sense of tradition. I wanted to build something that people would have a memorable attachment to through the years. I saw The Nutcracker with my grandmother, I saw it on a date with my first boyfriend, I am going to bring my child to see it-that’s the tradition that comes with this production.

PF What do you think about The Nutcracker’s outdated, stereotypical parts, particularly the Chinese Dance with the wide grins and the kowtowing?

CHG The first time I saw it, we all recognized the music but it wasn’t the same kind of Chinese dance I had seen in China. It was unexpected, and I think even then I knew this was a westernized version. It was a variation of Chinese dance. I recognize they wanted to accentuate certain aspects of Chinese culture like the hat, the ribbon dance, the chopsticks.

PF But isn’t it outdated?

CHG In our version we incorporate the ribbon dance, and the dancers are doing the dance en pointe. It’s very beautiful and a very difficult section of choreography. We make it about the movement and the dance rather than the cultural connotations.

PF You’re also an entrepreneur, producing your own line of ballet shoes. How did your dance training prepare you to be a business person?

CHG Something you learn in performing is to know and trust your instincts. I don’t know how to think any other way. I’m not a numbers person-the fact I could be called an entrepreneur is still surprising-but having good instincts and to be able to support an idea and not be stupid, that is something I know I can do. In business, you have to know your product, and I know about pointe shoes inside and out.

PF There’s that Oprah-like advice that people should dance like no one is watching. After decades of performing for an audience, can you dance as if no one is watching?

CHG It’s a metaphor, but for me it’s more literal. Dance is my profession. To dance as if no one was watching, to me, means expressing yourself, letting go, and tapping into all those inner feelings. Dancing uninhibited isn’t a technique-everyone can and should do it.