It was the day after their victory in the Under 21 Ballroom that we had the pleasure to interview Chong He and Jing Shan (Charles and Sarah). It was extremely interesting and informative. They were accompanied by their trainer Cassy of JC Dance who acted partly as translator but also gave valuable insight. Chong He and Jing Shan represent China - see their results and photos.
...We want to show everything: art, music, movement the best we can
Let us start by congratulating you on your victory. It was fabulous and from the first round almost everyone was saying you were going to win. Would you consider this to be your greatest success to date?
[Charles] Yes. We were very happy.
Now you are a part of dance history and your names will always be in the programme. You will be in results everywhere as a Blackpool winner. A wonderful achievement. Can you tell us how you started to dance, where and when?
[Charles] At age 8.
[Sarah] Age 8. In China (lots of laughter). I danced for one year with a different partner.
[Cassy] In China children start to dance very early and they are with an Amateur teacher. When Charles was 13 years old, Sarah 11 years old then they went into our school where they received Professional teaching. This was when Sara started to study Ballroom. Previously it was only Latin.
Sarah, I understand you were dancing Latin until 2008?
(to Charles) and were you the same?
[Charles] I also started dancing aged 8 but studied both Ballroom and Latin.
How did you meet?
[Cassy] In our school every term the children can choose who they wish to dance with. The teacher does not decide. The children know each other and they decide. Once you choose then you must dance together for the term, half a year. Then you can choose again if you wish.
What do you like most in dancing?
[Sarah] We want to show everything: art, music, movement the best we can.
Which dance is your favourite dance?
[Charles and Sarah] Foxtrot.
I can understand - you are beautiful in Foxtrot (Laughter).
[Cassy] They won Ballroom and Latin and also 10 dance competitions.
I believe they won in Australia as well.
So which Latin dance do you like the most?
Sexy! (Sarah burst into laughter)
(to Charles) And you?
Also sexy! (Much laughter from Sarah) What do you like most about your partner and what do you like least?
[Sarah] I like the confidence he brings to our dancing.
And the least?
[Sarah] (laughing) He cannot speak English.
Charles, and you?
[Charles] (laughing) She can speak English.
And what you don’t like?
[Charles] Sometimes she is lazy.
How much time do you practise?
[Cassy] The dance school is a Professional dance school so if you dance then you must study and pratise, train every day. They have each day group lessons for 2 hours and then they practise together for 4 hours.
So in total 5 to 6 hours a day.
How big is your school?
[Charles] 1000 students.
[Cassy] Yes, 1000 students but they don’t only study Ballroom and Latin. They also study Ballet and Music
[Sarah] It is Art school.
Is it a special school for the arts?
[Cassy] Yes. For Ballroom and Latin we have 200 students.
So it is a big school specialising in all the arts.
[Cassy] Yes. We are famous in China.
Is it a boarding school or do the children come only in the day and go home?
[Cassy] They live at the school. At the weekend the parents may come to visit and take the children out but otherwise they must stay at the school, or they do competitions or shows.
At the school, do you only study Ballroom and Latin or do you learn other subjects?
[Cassy] They learn other subjects like Chinese, English, Mathematics, Ballet, Popular dance, Culture. It is not just Ballroom and Latin.
Do you have grades and examinations?
[Cassy] Yes 1, 2, 3 4. You must pass an Examination and Graduate. Then you go on to University. Now Charles and Sarah are at University. Charles is 20 now and Sarah is 18.
At University, do you study only dance or some other subjects as well?
[Cassy] They study many subjects like computer, Ballet, Popular dance, Culture. It is not just Ballroom, Latin or show dance.
Cassy, where did you do your dance training?
[Cassy] Jacky, my husband and me ,we teach Ballroom dance in Guangzhou Art school for 8 years, also we set up a Ballroom dance training center in Zhuhai City for 7 years, many English teachers give us support, like Marcus & Karen Hilton. We follow them for 10 years.
Sarah and Charles, how many times have you competed at Blackpool?
[Sarah] Three. First time we ended up in the top 24, last year we danced the semi final and then last night we became champions (laughter).
In England there is the expression “Third time Lucky”.
[Cassy] Yes, very lucky.
But this was not luck this was knowledge and ability.
[Cassy] They are still very young. They danced the International Championships in London when they were Under 14 and Under 16 and also Under 21.
I believe they were 2nd in Under 21 at the International last year (i.e. 2009).
[Cassy] Yes, that is correct.
Will you come to the International this year?
[Sarah] Yes. We will dance the Amateur this time. (Laughs)
So we hope we will see you at the Albert Hall on Thursday.
[Sarah] Yes, we want to go to the Albert Hall. We will not dance the Under 21 this year.
In 2011 will you dance at Blackpool?
We wish you same success in Amateur.
[Sarah] That will be difficult.
Maybe not next year, but in a few years time.
[Sarah] I think it will be many years.
If you come to Blackpool next year would you dance Rising Stars again having been 2nd this year?
[Sarah] We are not sure. (laughter) Maybe... yes.
Your ambition is to become a top Amateur, will you then wish to become top Professionals?
[Cassy] Yes, this their wish.
Once you are competing as Professionals will you also teach or concentrate only on your own dancing competitions and shows?
[Sarah] No, we want to dance and teach.
Some couples say they wish only to concentrate on their own dancing and then others say that by teaching you can actually learn from your students mistakes.
[Cassy] I think that all the good dancers wish only to concentrate on their own dancing. I still hope to do it. For instance, we come to UK every year for learning only, no teaching and we are very happy. But not everyone can do. I think you must concentrate on your own dancing when you are very young. If you grown up enough, you can teach. In Guangzhou Art School we have many assistant teachers, Charles Chong He and Sarah Jing Shan are also between them, they can teach and study.
If you compete in the national Chinese Amateur Championship where do you rank? Final, Semi Final.
[Cassy] They have been Chinese Champions in Under 14, Under 16, Under 21 and now they are 2nd in the national Amateur championships in China. The champions are Yang Chao and Tang Yi Ling.
In the Chinese Championship how many couples compete?
[Sarah] In Amateur there are over 80 couples. Over 1000 couples overall in the Chinese championships.
How many couples came to Blackpool from your school?
[Cassy] This year we have 9 couples. 4 coupls dance Ballroom, 5 coupls dance Latin. In Ballroom Under 21 Charles and Sarah are Champions, 2 couples in 48 and one in 96 - this was their first time to Blackpool.
How many couples do you believe are dancing competitively in China?
[Cassy] Many couples. In China there are two federations. One is Dancesport and the other is Ballroom and Latin Federation. Each has Under 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 21, then Rising Stars then Amateur also Professional Rising Stars and Champion - each division has many couples. IDSF maybe 5000 couples and WDC 3000 couples. Very many couples. Many times the competition must be 3 days because so many couples come. 3000 couples.
Is this only Ballroom and Latin or other dance styles as well?
[Cassy] No, this is only Ballroom and Latin, it is very big.
When you are coming to England for competitions do you also go to other Teachers?
May we ask which teachers?
[Cassy] This year with Kenny Welsh 2 lessons, Augusto Schiavo 8 lessons and with Massimo Giorgianni 3 lessons. This year after Blackpool my husband and I we will stay with Charles and Sarah and 3 other couple and have lessons with Marcus and Augusto. Before Blackpool many teachers are very busy. If you want to learn the real technique then it must be quiet and concentrated. You do not have lessons only for the marks.
Did you know about our website before?
[Cassy] Yes, many couples know your web site. They come to search results and to look at pictures. Very, very good pictures.
[Sarah] Many couples only know this website. (Laughter).
China is a very large country do you compete in many different cities or only in your own area?
[Cassy] They compete in many cities. We live in south of China, Guangzhou City. They go to Beijing, Shanghai, north of China , north west of China, Hong Kong, Macau and others. They do many competitions every month.
In Europe dance is considered expensive as the couples pay for everything themselves. Is it the same in China?
[Cassy] Yes. In the beginning the parents paid for Charles and Sarah but now they are sponsored by Bill Lau Foundation, Hong Kong. I spoke to them and said please help my couple because their parents are not rich and if you cannot help then China can not progress so quickly in the World. They said Yes and very kindly sponsor them now.
So do they pay the school or is that parents or Government?
[Cassy] School was set up by Government, but their parents pay for it.
What does the sponsor pay for? The dresses?
[Sarah] Dress and shoes are sponsored by Dance Sport International.
Do other couples get help from government for dresses?
[Cassy] No, this is paid by family. I come to England many many times to dance to learn and I pay all myself so Sarah and Charles are very lucky.
So when you say the Bill Lau foundation sponsors them does that mean they pay all the travel, and the lessons?
[Cassy] Yes. Thank you Bill Lau so much! But you must be the hope for the future for China.
You make history because you are the first Chinese couple that we have interviewed. We would like to thank you very much for giving us this time and we wish you every success in the future. We are sure that you will be World Champions at some time in the future.