Currently in rehearsal for Romeo & Juliet, which opens on Valentine’s Day, Cincinnati Ballet Company corps member Sirui Liu spends most of her days — from about 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. — dancing.
In fact, she’s been dancing for more than a decade. When she was just 10 years old she decided she wanted to enroll in professional ballet school in Shanghai, China. “I saw ballet when I was younger,” she says. “It was so light. It was like flying. It’s so pretty and I said I want to do that.”
And while a dancer’s schedule and lifestyle are grueling, as soon as she gets into the studio, there’s nothing else she’d rather do.
“My parents told me a story,” she says. “When I was younger, they let me go to drawing class, then when they came to pick me up, I disappeared because I went to dance class.”
Her passion for dance has won her many awards, including a gold medal in a recent national ballet competition in China and a coveted spot with the Cincinnati Ballet Company.
“The program has a really nice history and the ballet is so cool,” Liu says of the Cincinnati Ballet.
“I felt if I came here I could learn more stuff than if I stayed in China.”
So Liu sent an audition video of herself dancing to the Cincinnati Ballet and was accepted into the company. She left the Shanghai Dance Academy — and her family — for the U.S. in 2011.
Do you have a specific memory of when you knew that this is what you wanted to do?
I like to dance because I want to be on stage. I think that’s what makes me happy. I want to be the focus of all people’s attention. I feel right on stage. I really want to show myself.
It’s Friday night after a long week. Where would you love to be?
I would like to go to a Chinese restaurant. I like Red Pepper because I like spicy food. My friends found another place called Bon Chinese. I’ve only been once but it’s still really good.
What do you love about Cincinnati?
It’s so different [than] China. In my city, Shanghai, it’s a big city, so there are a lot of people around. And it’s a lot of noise and it’s not clean. … In Shanghai every morning people are walking so fast, but here everyone is so calm. Also, here, I think it’s a little bit of a country style, and I’ve never seen that. Even [Cincinnati] has traffic, but it’s less crowded than Shanghai.
Name someone that you love: role model, best friend, inspiration, etc. And tell us why.
Well, I have a boyfriend. His name is Rodrigo Almarales. Right now, he’s really helping me in my class and in rehearsal. He’s a soloist in our company, so when he tells me stuff it makes me better. And Victoria Morgan. She is our artistic director and CEO. She’s taken care of me a lot. She introduced me to some Chinese people because she doesn’t want me feel alone. It makes me feel warm. I thank her so much.
What’s the best lesson life has taught you about love?
I think my parents. … My father is special because when I was younger he always brought me to the dance school. My father said, ‘I have to bring you every week.’ They give me a lot of love. They support me a lot.
Do you think you’ll do ballet forever?
We can only dance until we’re 35. When you’re getting older, you will feel it. A lot of ballet dancers have pain in their feet, ankles, knees, maybe their back because your body gets too tired. If you have a lot of pain, you don’t want to dance anymore. Ballet always looks so beautiful, and if you can’t do it like this, you don’t want to do it.
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