But it also gave a name: Jing Jing Mao. And Joke knew her, as Jing Jing is one of the dancers with the Dutch National Ballet. She comes from China and is indeed 17 years of age. Joke had arranged her residency and work permits and all the other paperwork when Jing Jing came over to Amsterdam at the beginning of this season. She had just turned 17 and didn’t speak a word of English or any other language than Mandarin Chinese. But boy could she dance! Ted had scouted her personally when he saw her perform with the Beijing ballet school at the Monaco Dance Forum. She was also spotted by other artistic directors who, like Ted, were there to discover new talent. But it was Ted who eventually took her home (figuratively speaking).
I can’t remember much about what I was doing myself at the age of 17. Stacking supermarket shelves, in any case. Basketball at weekends. I’m sure it was all very exciting. But the idea of setting off on my own to work in Beijing at that age seems rather improbable. I don’t think I’d have dared. Jing Jing appears to have no problem with the adventure. With the assistance of our other Chinese dancer, Chao, as guide and interpreter, she has soon settled into the group. She lives with a couple of other female dancers in one of the flats the company has for young dancers during the first year of their contract (after which they have to find a place of their own). The Dutch National Ballet is now her family.
It was quite hard for Joke to convince the school attendance authorities that our youngest dancer really had completed her education in her native country. Before you knew it, she would have had to become naturalised as well (although she appears to have already done a good job of that in her social life). However, the fact that at that age even the best Dutch talents are often nowhere near ready for the Dutch National Ballet, and are thus no match for their competitors from elsewhere, is a problem. But this won’t worry Jing Jing Mao and her family much. Her dream has come true.
In this first season, she has already fulfilled her promise. She has stood out for her strong stage personality and ‘beautiful lines’, as they are called in the ballet world. Last week, she heard that she can stay on for another season. Joke didn’t go to all that trouble for nothing.