1996 Honorary Fellow
Madam Dai Ai-lian is considered by many as the most important first-generation ballet dancer, choreographer and teacher in China. Born in Trinidad of Cantonese parentage, she began her ballet training at the age of five and went to study in London when she was 14. She remained in England for nine years working with such major artists as Sir Anton Dolin, Dame Marie Rambert and Kurt Jooss. She gave notable performances as a choreographer and solo dancer, including appearances in the Royal Albert Hall and for the BBC when television was first introduced.
At the beginning of the Pacific War in 1940, she came to Hong Kong to perform for Madam Sun Yat-sen’s China Defence League raising funds to resist Japanese aggression. She went to China in 1941 to teach at the National Opera School and the National Institute of Social Education. From then on, she took up the challenge as one of the first pioneers of the art of dance in China.
From 1950 to 1955, she was Director of the first professional dance company under the aegis of the Central Drama Academy. This company was later reorganized to be the Central Folk Song and Dance Ensemble of Beijing. From 1954 to 1964, she was Principal of the first professional dance school in China, the Beijing Dance School which provided 6-year courses in classical ballet and Chinese classical and folk dance. She was also personally responsible for the Asian Dance Section of the School which developed into the famous Eastern Song and Dance Ensemble. The School itself was later reorganized to be the Beijing Dance Academy. In 1963, the first professional ballet company, the Central Ballet of China, was inaugurated with Madam Dai as Director. The company was later renamed the National Ballet of China and she held its directorship until 1966. She was also the founding Chairman of the Labanotation Society, which was established in 1983 under the Chinese Dancers’ Association. Throughout this period, Madam Dai remained highly active as both dancer and choreographer with an impressive list of creative work to her credit.
Since the mid-1980s, Madam Dai has travelled abroad extensively, teaching and serving on international juries of numerous ballet and choreography competitions in Britain, the United States, Russia, Rumania, France, Italy and Austria. She has also visited Hong Kong several times and has conducted workshops and given lecturers at the Hong Kong Academy for performing Arts on ballet, Chinese dance, and dance education.
Mr President, for her outstanding pioneering work in establishing and developing all aspects of the art of dance in China and for her life-long achievement as dancer, choreographer, teacher and administrator, I present Madam Dai-Ai-lian for the award of Fellowship of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.