Tan Yuan Yuan began her journey in ballet at age eleven, a year later than her peers. Facing objections from her father at home and difficulty adapting to a strict routine at school, she would have given up her dream of becoming a ballerina if not for her mother’s encouragement to press forward.
At age sixteen, she won her first gold medal at the Paris International Ballet Competition and the Nijinsky Award at the Nagoya International Ballet competition. With her acceptance of a scholarship from the Stuttgart Ballet School, followed by an invitation to join the San Francisco Ballet as a soloist, her transformative journey around the world as a teenage ballet genius began.
Within two years of joining the San Francisco Ballet, she became its youngest principal dancer—and also the first Chinese dancer to reach that rank.
Featured on the cover of Time Magazine’s 20 under 40 issue and declared a “Hero of Asia,” she has also gone on to win Dance Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
With the aim of giving back to the city where she was born, 2015 saw Tan Yuan Yuan open her International Ballet Arts Studio in Shanghai in a bid to cultivate and encourage innovation in ballet between Chinese dancers. To her, ballet is the purest form of art and the reason why she lives.