Award winning dancer and emerging choreographer Kristina Chan is a fighter, discovers Nina Levy.
Beneath a rainbowhued storm of silk a lone dancer ricochets, as though buffeted by cyclonic wind gusts. This is Kristina Chan’s A Faint Existence, a solo work that takes climate change as its starting point and explores ideas about resistance, helplessness, fragility and mortality. As Dance Australia's 2016 "Critics’ Choice" survey reveals, Chan’s first full-length solo was a hit with critics at its Sydney premiere last year.
While Chan may be a relative newcomer to the world of choreography, she’s no newbie when it comes to performance. A two-time winner of the Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer (2006 and 2009) and winner of the 2011 Helpmann Award for Best Female Dancer, she’s worked with an impressive range of Australian companies - including Australian Dance Theatre (ADT), Chunky Move, Force Majeure and Lucy Guerin Inc. – as well as artists such as the late Tanja Liedtke, Deborah Hay and Stephanie Lake… and that’s just a sample selection.
Although she began her training at the tender age of three, Chan wasn’t a child who grew up dreaming of a life on stage. “I was adamant that I wasn't going to pursue dance as a career until I was about 13,” she recalls.
Her change of heart, when it came, was total. “I became obsessed [with ballet] and convinced my parents to allow me to finish school by correspondence and study ballet full-time at a school called Dynamite Dance Studios which was run by musical theatre man David Atkins and ballerina Sheree da Costa. I had some excellent teachers there including Shane Carroll and Jane Beckett. Both got me thinking about dance in ways I had never before and I began to learn how to apply myself in my practice that I would expand my capacity as a dancer.”
After training full-time for two years, Chan’s focus shifted from classical ballet to contemporary dance and she eventually took herself to Europe, with the aim of finding a job in a contemporary dance company. It wasn’t what she’d imagined. ”I was too young and inexperienced,” she says. “After a few months of travelling and auditioning I had enough of it all so I quit dance, moved to London and worked in hospitality.” . . .
This is an extract from an article by Nina Levy in the February/March issue of Dance Australia. Don't miss out. Look out for the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app.
Pictured: Kristina Chan in her work A Faint Existence. Photo: Ashley de Prazer.