Put on your shoes and dance

Updated: 2011-09-28 08:01

By Zhao Ruixue (China Daily)

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Put on your shoes and dance
Ran Yujie (front) performs Dream on the Toes at a competition in Hong Kong. [Photo/provided to China Daily] 

Retired ballerina helps women fulfill their dreams with passion

JINAN - It was the sight of red dancing shoes that got the women dreaming.

As retired ballet dancer Ran Yujie was teaching a few moves to a group of women at the Jinan Elderly School, it was the flash of red coming from her bag that caught their attention and triggered their enthusiasm to fulfill long-held wishes.

"Most women of my age grew up watching The Red Detachment of Women (a successful Chinese ballet that depicts woman soldiers in the 1930s)," said Ran, 57.

"To dance like the dancers did in The Red Detachment of Women has been our dreams since childhood," she said.

"So once they found a chance to realize a dream they've kept for nearly 50 years, they gave it everything they could. I could feel their passion for ballet," Ran said.

However, none of the women had professional training before, so Ran had to start from scratch.

The average age of her students was 55.

"You can image how hard it was for them," she said.

"People at this age are not fit for ballet, a dance requiring strong flexibility. Any wrong move can lead to an accident, a fracture for instance, which easily happens among older people," Ran explained.

Still, she couldn't turn down their request.

For nearly two years she taught them basic dancing skills and had them practice over and over.

"Thanks to her proper teaching plan, none of us had accidents during training," said Zhang Yuhuan, 57, one of the students.

"When I told them to buy ballet shoes, they became so excited. But I know it's not easy to dance on your toes even though you've practiced basic dances for a long time," Ran said. "So I told them just to have a try and if they can't do it, it's OK to give up."

It took five months, but eventually they could all stand on their toes.

"Their persistence encouraged me to hold on," Ran said.

To celebrate, Ran orchestrated a ballet named Dream on the Toes.

"Dream on the Toes showcases the real story of how 20 older women conquered the weaknesses brought by aging to dance on their toes," Ran said.

The dance won Ran and her team the golden prize at the fifth national art competition for the elderly.

"To me, the significance of dancing has gone beyond artistry to the sphere of overcoming the fear of growing old and transcending the ego," Ran said.