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Lam Chun-wing, the first Chinese dancer hired by the Paris Opera Ballet


When its season opened late last month, the Paris Opera Ballet included the first Chinese dancer to be hired in its 346-year history.             

上个月,巴黎歌剧团芭蕾舞团(Paris Opera Ballet)的演出季开启时,演出名单上出现了它所录用的首名中国舞蹈演员。这在该剧院346年的历史上还是第一次。


Lam Chun-wing, a 19-year-old from a working-class Hong Kong suburb, is an unlikely addition to the world's oldest ballet company — a state institution steeped in French tradition. He has already danced in George Balanchine's "Themes and Variations," plus a work by Jerome Robbins, in a run that ended on Sunday. In November and December, Mr. Lam will perform in Rudolf Nureyev's "La Bayadère."           

19岁的林隽永(Lam Chun-wing)来自香港工薪阶层居住的郊区,不太像这一具有深厚法国传统的世界上最古老的芭蕾舞团会录用的人选。此前,林隽永参演过乔治·巴兰钦(George Balanchine)版的《主题与变奏》(Themes and Variations),也出现在上周日结束巡演的一部杰罗姆·罗宾斯(Jerome Robbins)作品中。今年11月和12月,他还将参演鲁道夫·努力耶夫(Rudolf Nureyev)的《舞姬》(La Bayadère)。


Mr. Lam's entry to the Paris Opera Ballet is part of a gradual change at the state-financed company, where more than 90 percent of the dancers are French. He grew up in a small Hong Kong apartment with five relatives and started taking dance lessons at age 7 at a small branch of a chain of schools run by Jean M. Wong, the grande dame of the territory's ballet teachers. At an annual event held only for top students, Ms. Wong quickly noticed that the boy was blessed with both talent and a classical dancer's ideal proportions.     

巴黎歌剧院芭蕾舞团由国家出资,其中超过90%的舞蹈演员都是法国人,林隽永的加入是该团正在逐渐发生改变的一种体现。与五名家人在香港一套小公寓里长大的林隽永师从香港芭蕾舞界的泰斗王仁曼(Jean M. Wong),从7岁开始在她创办的芭蕾舞学校的一个小型分校上舞蹈课。在专为尖子生举办的一个年度活动中,王仁曼很快注意到,这个幸运的男孩既有跳芭蕾舞的天赋,又有古典芭蕾舞演员所需的完美身形。


"Everything about him is very precise," said Ms. Wong, who has been teaching for 55 years. "And he's so musical — he finishes each step exactly on the note." She was so impressed that she sent a DVD of Mr. Lam's dancing to the Ballet School at the Paris Opera Ballet in 2011. That same year, at 14, he became the first Chinese dancer to be admitted into the academy.                  

"他身上的一切都刚刚好,"有着55年舞蹈教学经验的王仁曼说。"而且他乐感很强——每一步都准确地踩在点上。"她对林隽永的才华印象深刻,所以在2011年她向巴黎歌剧院附属芭蕾舞学校(Ballet School at the Paris Opera Ballet)寄送了一张林隽永的舞蹈光碟。就在这一年,14岁的林隽永成为该校录取的第一名中国舞蹈演员。


Mr. Lam had his lucky break last December, when the Paris Opera Ballet needed a last-minute replacement for a production of Jean-Guillaume Bart's "La Source." He danced a technically difficult scene in which male dancers portray otherworldly creatures, after both some main dancers and their replacements were injured. At the time, Mr. Lam was still a student and had not yet been hired by the company.            

林隽永的机遇在去年12月来临,当时巴黎歌剧院芭蕾舞团正在排演让-纪尧姆·巴尔(Jean-Guillaume Bart)的作品《仙泉》(La Source),急需一名替补演员。一些主要舞蹈演员及其替补演员受了伤,临时加入的林隽永参与演出了一段颇具技术难度的舞蹈片段,其中男演员扮演灵界的生物。此时的林隽永还是学生身份,尚未被舞蹈团聘用。


Nevertheless, he made his professional debut at the ornate Palais Garnier — painted blue, as the understudy of an understudy of an elf. After filling in for 23 shows, he got a back-stage thank-you directly from Benjamin Millepied, the Paris Opera's dance director.        

但是,以饰演一个精灵的替补演员的替补演员的身份,蓝色妆容的林隽永在巴黎歌剧院的华丽舞台上完成了职业生涯的首场演出。在他替补演出23场之后,巴黎歌剧院的舞蹈总监本杰明·米派德(Benjamin Millepied)在后台亲自对他表示了感谢。


"He has very polished technique — he's quick and fit," Mr. Millepied said in a telephone interview, adding that Mr. Lam was only one of three male dancers the company hired this year. "He's got great proportions. And after that trial, we knew he would be great for the company."              



Mr. Millepied spoke of a "cultural change" at the ballet — one that reflected his international outlook and "American influences." Mr. Millepied, a native of Bordeaux, grew up partly in Senegal and danced with the New York City Ballet for more than a decade. He became a Hollywood name when he choreographed "Black Swan," where he met and married the movie's star, Natalie Portman.                

米派德讲到了巴黎歌剧院芭蕾舞蹈团的"文化转变"。这种转变体现出他的国际视野和他受到的"美国影响"。米派德在波尔多出生,少年时期在塞内加尔生活过,并在纽约市芭蕾舞团演出了十多年。在为电影《黑天鹅》(Balck Swan)担任编舞时,他开始跟好莱坞扯上了关系——通过此片遇到了电影明星娜塔莉·波特曼(Natalie Portman),并与之结婚。


"We want more diversity in the Paris Opera," Mr. Millepied said. "We want a 21st-century company that truly resembles the community." He added that he wished to see more international dancers at both the company and its school.             



Back in Hong Kong in August, Mr. Lam was the star attraction at the Jean M. Wong School's 55th anniversary gala, where he danced the role of a dashing, comedic Basilio in "Don Quixote."

今年8月回香港参加王仁曼舞蹈学校创校55周年纪念演出时,林隽永是众人关注的焦点。他扮演了芭蕾舞剧《唐吉可德》(Don Quixote)中风度翩翩的喜剧角色巴西里奥。


He was clearly the hometown hero in the sort of student show where 5-year-olds toddle around the edges of the village scenes in tutus. Booklets handed out at the Hong Kong Cultural Center showed him flying through the air, with the headline "He made history! The first Chinese to join the Paris Opera Ballet."        



After the performance, Mr. Lam shyly accepted congratulations from awe-stuck students backstage. A slightly built teenager in shorts and a backpack, he then excused himself and found his parents, sister, aunt, uncle and cousin waiting in the lobby. His parents, a schoolteacher and an elevator repairman, have not had the chance to see their son dance in Paris.              



Mr. Lam said he had decided to become a professional dancer at 11. But he faced several hurdles in Hong Kong, including the fact that he could not find a good male ballet teacher. The best he could do was cross the border with mainland Chinese to work with a teacher at the Guangzhou Ballet School during school holidays. 林隽永说,他在11岁的时候就决心成为职业芭蕾舞演员。但在香港,他面临不少障碍,包括找不到好的男芭蕾舞教师。他能找到的最好的解决办法,就是在学校放假期间,到内地的广州芭蕾舞学校,向那里的一位老师请教。


"It's totally different training," Ms. Wong said of male dancers. "They need to jump more. They need to do more turns. They need to learn the pas de deux. By the time Chun-wing was 13, he was really in a hurry to go overseas."        



She started lobbying for him. She took his audition DVD to the Royal Ballet School in London, but he missed the minimum age requirement by a week. He received a scholarship to attend its summer school, but was still lacking a place for full-time study.            



Another DVD was sent to the Paris Opera Ballet, where he was invited for a private audition. Almost as soon as they received the notice, the ballet teacher flew with her protégé to Paris. They went sightseeing the first day, stopping to gaze at the elaborate facades of the Paris Opera's residences. The second day, they rode in nervous silence to the Paris Opera's Ballet School in Nanterre, a suburb to the west of the city.             



Mr. Lam was whisked away and Ms. Wong waited in the lobby for two hours. Finally, Élisabeth Platel, the legendary prima ballerina who is the director of the school, emerged and declared: "This boy has talent."       

林隽永很快被带走面试,王仁曼在大厅等了两个小时。最后,该校校长、富有传奇色彩的前首席女演员伊丽莎白·普拉特尔(Élisabeth Platel)出现,并宣布:"这个男孩很有才华。"


"My heart went boom," Ms. Wong said.         



The next challenge was convincing Mr. Lam's family to let him move to France. Children in Hong Kong — a city with exorbitant home prices and not much of a social safety net — are usually pushed into reliable, traditional careers.                 


"He has very supportive parents," Ms. Wong said, "especially given that he is coming from a Chinese family with only one son."                



When Mr. Lam moved to the Ballet School's boarding house at 14, he spoke almost no French. There were few foreigners among the 130 students. There was only one other boy from abroad, a Ukrainain who did not make it to the second year.         



"I was so homesick," Mr. Lam said. "Sometimes at night, I'd think, 'What am I doing here?"' Despite his spectacular performances, he posted only one video on his personal website — of his grandmother cooking Cantonese food. (Someday, one presumes, Mr. Lam will have a publicist.) 



In September, Mr. Lam began work as a quadrille, on the first rung of the ladder in the corps de ballet. He blushes when asked if he is proud of himself.            



"Of course I'm happy. But mostly I'm just relieved," he said. "I've been worried — basically, I've been worried since I was 13. I worried I was not good enough. I worried I couldn't go overseas." He paused. "Now, at least, here I am."           



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