24 Sep SHI ZHONGYI INTERVIEWED IN THE JOURNAL BY MR WILLIS & WAGAS GROUP
Mr Willis & Wagas interviewed Shi Zhongyi for their quarterly publication The Journal, available at the Group’s 50+ restaurants and cafes around town. Here’s what Zhongyi had to say about his passion for dance, his most important advice for students and how he likes to relax in Shanghai… (Article first published in Winter 2014)
How did your dancing career start and evolve?
Selectors spotted me at junior school and asked me to audition for the Shanghai Dance School. I was 12 at the time and had never danced before but was very active and figured it would be more fun than regular school. I lived, trained and studied at the dance school for the following six years. After graduating, I danced with the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble then, a few years later, was invited to join Singapore Dance Theatre, where I performed for several years and toured around the world. My career eventually took me to Germany, where I was lucky to work with some of Europe’s most exciting choreographers.
What made you passionate about dancing?
Even though it wasn’t my initial choice as a kid, I think I was born to dance. I’ve always enjoyed the physical challenge and theatre life, not to mention the chance to travel and work in different countries.
Since you returned to China, you’ve spent a decade teaching the next generation of young dancers at Shanghai Dance School, as well as at dance companies and independent studios around Shanghai. What’s the most important advice you pass on to your students?
Use your brain before your body! Ballet and Chinese classical dance aren’t easy, but that’s the beauty. In my mind, no other discipline balances a great workout and streamlined physique with technical precision plus a chance to express your artistry quite like dance.
Is there a choreographer or dancer who inspires you in your daily work?
Mikhail Baryshnikov has always been a huge inspiration for me. He makes dance look effortless.
What’s your favourite ballet and why?
I’ve been fortunate to dance many classics, as well as works by contemporary choreographers like Christian Spuck, Mario Schröder and Val Caniparoli. In terms of classics, Don Quixote is a favourite because it’s a great one for men to show-off technique.
Where would we find you on your day off?
You’d probably find me sleeping in late then going out for brunch with family or friends. I love cycling around the city. I grew up in the longtangs of the French Concession and love the old architecture. Drinks in the afternoon sun – maybe Taixing Road or Yongkang Road. I enjoy cooking at home, but if we go out, my favourites are Lan Ting for old-school Shanghainese, Toriyasu for Japanese yakitori and Mr Willis or Bang for a relaxed meal with friends. We’ve known Craig and the (growing) Family for almost 10 years and a meal with them always involves great food, wine and company.