Interview with Jianan Peng and Jia Ci Zhong

Interview with Jianan Peng and Jia Ci Zhong

Posted on Friday, 25 Apr 2014, 13:39 by admin
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We met this young Chinese couple Jianan Peng and Jia Ci Zhong the next day after they won the Amateur Rising Star Ballroom at UK Open 2014. Unfortunately they did not speak English but fortunately Sissi Song from Chrisanne kindly offered to translate. Thanks Sissi!

Great result yesterday. Well done! Let’s start this interview with the usual question. When and where did you start to dance?

[Jia Ci] I was 7 years old when I started dancing. But I took Ballroom dancing only two years ago when I was introduced to my current partner Jianan Peng. Before that I danced the Latin style in the Professional Dance Academy (this is a kind of dance school) and had another partner.

[Sissi] Let me explain to you how these Academies work. All the students live there, are schooled there and do the dancing training there. Jia Ci and Jianan were introduced to each other there. There are really young dancers there as well. These Academies are quite popular in China and there are quite a lot of them.

[Jianan] I started when I was about 4.5 years old. I went to the Professional Dance Academy in Beijing when I was 11 years old. I danced both styles but found out that I was better suited to dance Ballroom. And two years ago, the very famous Chinese couple Li Chunsheng and Tan Mei, who were successful internationally and now are teachers and coaches, matched the two of us.

Where do you go for lessons? Do you train in China or do you go abroad as well?

[Jianan] Most of the time we train in China but three times a year, before the International, Blackpool and UK Open, we come to England and take part in the training camp and have lessons with coaches like Tony and Amanda Dokman.

OK, Sissi, can you please ask them this our usual but difficult question now: what do you like and dislike in your partner?

[Sissi] OK (laughing, and Jia Ci and Jianan are also laughing)

I can see you are all laughing – the reaction to this question is certainly the same regardless of the nationality! Are they together in private life as well?

[Sissi] No, they are too young. She is only sixteen. Too young to be involved like that, at least in public (laughing)

[Jia Ci] I like that Jianan has a good temper. He is very patient and communicates with me well during practice. He is really nice, and I like dancing with him. What I don’t like is him playing computer games all the time! Every time I want to practise I have to drag him from the computer (laughing).

[Jianan] My partner has so many good qualities it is impossible to list them here (laughing). But for the purpose of this interview I will say that she is very focused on dancing and works very hard to improve herself.

[Sissi] Jianan says that she realises he is more experienced in Ballroom and she asks him questions about the technique to learn more and to improve her dancing.

[Jianan] She is a nice girl, she is looking after me. For instance she helps me pack my luggage and I am grateful for that. I can spend the whole day talking about things like that (laughing).

OK, but what you don’t like about her?

[Jianan] I think she is not confident enough, that’s her problem. She is really young and sometimes is a bit emotional about her dancing. There were cases when she cried after competition or bad practise.

This is normal, she is a woman!

[Sissi] He would like her to become a woman and be more mature (laughing).

How old are you?

[Jianan] I am 22 years old.

What competitions are you taking part outside of China?

[Jianan] The big three in England. We also go to the other English competitions which happen around that time like Imperial or Universal.

Do you go to the camps as well?

[Sissi] They come to the camps where their coaches Tony and Amanda Dokman teach. For instance, they go to Holland for that.

I can see Jianan can speak a bit of English. Sissi, can you please ask Jia Ci if she is planning to learn English? (laughing)

[Jianan] We would love to learn English to be able to communicate easily with our coaches and people here. But we don’t have enough time. We have to practice and we also teach in our school in China.

[Sissi] Yes. They teach in the Professional Dance Academy as well. They spend all their time on dancing. They plan to improve their English gradually, bit by bit. This is what they always wanted to do.

How do you like European food?

[Jia Ci] I am vegetarian so this is not a problem for me.

[Jianan] It is OK and my favourite is English breakfast. I also like bread and butter. I feel this gives me a lot of energy and strength to dance.

I can see that the Chinese approach to dance is different to the European one. We don’t have such schools in this country where kids trains so intensively and spend all their time dancing. How does the teaching differ?

[Jia Ci] We have Professional Dance Academies in China where we have schoolwork and dancing as a part of our normal school day. We have group practices and classes every day.

[Sissi] The advantages of Chinese teaching system are such the young people have planned and supervised training programme. They have ballet, dance practise, dance classes and the normal school classes every day. The Academy is a like a normal school, and all these classes are part of the curriculum every day. This helps them to improve very quickly.

[Jianan] The advantage of the European system is that the couple has the full attention of the teacher, they have private lessons. The coach can concentrate on their particular problems and help to correct them quickly.

[Sissi] In China they have big sessions and some students are working hard and some are not. So the results depend on the students a lot. Both systems have advantages. So ideally, you should have combination of both.

In their schools they don’t have any individual lessons?

[Jia Ci] We have group lessons on week days. If we want to have some individual, private lessons we have to wait for the foreign coaches to come to us. They come at the weekends to teach and we have a chance to book lessons. Also, if we want to have private lessons with our own teachers we need to wait for the weekends.

[Sissi] Individual lessons are not part of the Academy curriculum. Teachers are not paid by the Academy to do them. They are extra and students have to pay extra.

How many hours of dancing do you have and how many school subjects?

[Jia Ci] We have already graduated from the school and we are teaching there. We have only one hour of our private lesson with our own coach per week. We are teachers during the week.

So you do not study any other subjects?

[Jia Ci] Not any more, as we both graduated from the school.

[Sissi] Before they graduated they had half a day of the normal school lessons like Chinese or Maths. And the other half day was dancing. Now they are teachers in the Academy.

How many students are there in the Academy?

[Jianan] About four hundred students studying Ballroom and Latin.

Do you have any friends outside of dancing?

[Jianan] Just a few. Most of our friends are dancers.

I understand that you live in the school as well? Is the school teaching other subjects as well?

[Jianan] Yes, there are other subjects such as Music, Acting, Chinese Dance.

Why did you choose the European style dancing rather than Chinese style?

[Jianan] First of all I love the music and I think the dancing is beautiful.

[Jia Ci] When I was a little girl I thought the Latin shoes were so beautiful that I wanted to dance wearing them. That’s why I wanted to dance the European style.

Now, after winning the Rising Stars at the UK Open, everybody will expect you to get the similar result in Blackpool? Do you feel the pressure?

[Jianan] No, I am not feeling any pressure about that. Every time we dance we just enjoy it and think about the movement and the music and things like that. We don’t really care about the results. Any result is fine as long as we enjoyed ourselves. That’s what we want for the future.

What is the most important element of dancing for you?

[Jia Ci] I think the technique is important.

[Jianan] I think, for me, the most important thing is to be able to show true emotions through dancing and to convey them to the audience.

Can you associate emotions with each dance?

[Jianan] Waltz – beauty, romance. Foxtrot…

[Jia Ci] Foxtrot – relax

[Jianan] Tango – eternity, Quickstep – happiness

You both danced Latin before, how do you compare that to Ballroom?

[Jianan] Obviously they are different from each other but actually the most important part is the same. I think if you want to dance Ballroom really well you need to know some things about Latin as well. There are elements of basic technique which are similar. And, in the end, you want to project emotions through your dancing regardless Latin or Ballroom.

Dancing is very expensive, how do you cope financially?

[Jianan] We take part in the Chinese competition tours where the organisers give money prizes. Also, we teach in Beijing and that covers our living costs. Our parents help us financially when we need to go abroad to the competitions or camps. Last year we’ve received a sponsorship from Chrisanne which reduced the cost of dresses a lot. It is very helpful.

Will you be coming to Blackpool?

[Jia Ci] Yes, we will.

We wish you success there and good luck tomorrow at the Open event.