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Humans of Hong Kong: Footloose and fancy-free with Jessica Burrows

By Localiiz 18 August 2021

Welcome to Humans of Hong Kong, a story series on Localiiz that takes a deeper look at the many colourful characters and unique personalities that call our beloved city home. We dance the night away with Jessica Burrows, a Canadian ballet dancer who joined a prestigious Hong Kong ballet company and was named its soloist in 2021. Join us as she shares her story on how she first got her start in the ballet world and her thoughts on why Hong Kong is a romantic city.

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“I think my favourite part is the performance. Nothing can replace live theatre. I also like the daily rehearsal—learning things about myself. I’m lucky I get to spend every day doing something that I love rather than sitting behind a desk. And I’m just really grateful that I can train practice and perfect this art form and then be rewarded by being able to share everything I’ve learned, trained for, and wanted to give to an audience.

“I think on the journey to becoming a ballet dancer, there are many frustrating experiences, like finding the right place to work. When you’re just graduating from school and finding that first job, the second job, the third job, you’re trying to discover yourself and seeing where you fit into this big ballet world. And I think that’s probably the most challenging part is—at a very young age, usually 18 or 19, you’re really putting yourself out there when you don’t really know who you are as an artist yet. And I think this was really difficult for me, because I’m 10-plus years into my career and I’m still figuring out who I am. So dancers at 18 and 19, it’s just such a difficult time.”

“I came to Hong Kong the first time in 2010. I was working in a ballet company in Canada and I had also trained all my life in Canada. And the great thing about ballet is that you can do it in many places in the world. And I thought it was time for a change. So I auditioned for the company in Hong Kong. I had never been to Hong Kong before and I was offered the job basically on the spot. So I kind of took that as a good sign to come and join the company!

“It was really the work that brought me here. Hong Kong was so much more than I thought it was, so I ended up staying for a long time. And the city is intense, so I needed a bit of a break. I left for two years, but I found that I really enjoyed my time in Hong Kong and nothing else really compared. So I moved back again about two years ago.”

“A dance piece that would represent Hong Kong? I think it would have to be something very inclusive. A grand dance piece with lots of energy, maybe like an opening number to a ballet. I’m imagining a big story ballet, like Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, even Sleeping Beauty—they all start off with a celebration piece danced by a large number of dancers. I think that’s very much the spirit of Hong Kong—we’re kind of a diverse, energetic opening number as a city.”

“Art, for me, is infinite. Art can mean so many things and offer so many opportunities. It’s a chance to grow. It’s a chance to express yourself. It’s a chance to give something to someone else at the same time. Art has also given me so much. It’s given me a reason to wake up in the morning. It’s given me the life that I have here in Hong Kong.

“My body is my tool to express my art. Sometimes, it’s a lot of pressure that you put on yourself because you want to make sure you convey the right message. You put pressure on yourself to please everyone, but not everybody enjoys every piece of art. So you have to know that not everybody is going to enjoy your performance, even if you put yourself into it 100 percent. You just have to hope that people appreciate your effort and your commitment.”

“I think I like a balance of both city life and rural life. I can’t have one without the other, and I think that’s also why I love Hong Kong so much. I love the intensity and diversity of the people. I love the busy energy. I love the ambition. But I also like my wide-open space. I love to get in touch with nature. I also like re-centring myself after a really busy week of work. So I don’t think I’m one or the other, I think I need both in my life.

“I really enjoy the trails of Hong Kong, especially on Lantau. I really enjoy hiking or even running the trails sometimes. I think I prefer the Lantau Trail and the trails on Lantau Island the most, but there are also so many beautiful beaches up in Sai Kung and along the Maclehose Trail. I think out in nature is where I prefer to relax.”

“Hong Kong can be a very romantic city. I think what’s so interesting is when people move here, they are coming from everywhere and you can meet another person from a totally different culture and learn so much. You’re not just learning about Hong Kong. When you move to Hong Kong, you’re learning about, you know, China, the Philippines, Europe, South America—you have a totally new outlook on the world when you live in Hong Kong. And I think, with the diversity of its people and the openness of its people, it’s very easy to fall in love.

“I met the love of my life in Hong Kong and I think many people fall in love in Hong Kong—not just with another person, but with the city. I have tried to let it go and I came back, so yeah—Hong Kong is a love story, for sure.”

Created in partnership with Hong Kong Tourism Board for the Hong Kong Super Fans campaign

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