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”Ballet shoes are a principal tool for me”

Ballet shoes are the single most important tool of the ballet dancer. Jun Xia, principal dancer with the Finnish National Ballet, tells about his relationship with ballet shoes.

As a child, I was very athletic. My mother says I used to love listening to music, and if I saw dance moves on a TV programme, I would mimic them. I didn’t know anything about ballet back then, but watching dancers made me happy. I started learning traditional Chinese dances as a pre-schooler and took up ballet at my mother’s suggestion at the age of 10. I went to the Shanghai Dance School, from which I graduated when I was 17. After that, I took part in the Prix de Lausanne ballet competition and won a prize: an opportunity to study at the school of the Ballet Theatre.

I remember my first ballet shoes very well. I was still at ballet school, and I had only one pair to wear for several months. Those shoes were totally destroyed. My family would not spend that much money on ballet shoes, so my mother would repair them for me. When I became a professional, I came to understand the importance of the shoes, which are a principal tool for me. While at school, I’d still wear the shoes randomly on the left and right foot, but now I take great care to put each one on the correct foot.

It’s been difficult for me to find a shoe brand that fits me well. I never did in the whole seven years that I danced at the Hong Kong Ballet. Of course, they used very good quality brands there, it’s just that none of those was perfect for my foot. Here in Finland I had the chance to try on different brands and finally discovered the right one. I now wear Bloch shoes, which I am really content with, since they fit me like a glove.

I’ve once tried on pointe shoes for a moment and they really hurt! Dancing on pointe is so beautiful, and I admire the ballerinas who do it. It’s amazing how they can stay on their toes, hold their upper body so beautifully upright, spin, keep their balance and perform jumps, while wearing pointe shoes! But to be fair, they have practiced that particular technique for over a decade.

My teacher used to say that a male dancer must always know the moves of the female dancer by heart so that he can pre-empt them to support and help her. The female dancer must be able to trust her partner, whose responsibility it is to make her look as beautiful as possible. Of course we also need to look incredible together, as we’re a team after all. This is my second season at the Finnish National Ballet. I’ve had the opportunity to dance with many ballerinas, which gives me great joy, as I’ve learnt a lot from every one of them. We are all different and we all dance differently, too.

I’m so very happy to dance at the Finnish National Ballet in its centenary year. My Finnish National Ballet is international. Everyone is so kind and warm here, so unlike the Finnish climate. I want to be part of this wonderful ballet company, which dances to live orchestral music rather than a recording. I enjoy myself here and feel at home.