The New York City Ballet announced Friday that it is promoting Chun Wai Chan to principal dancer. He will become the company’s first Chinese director and only the fourth Asian to hold that rank. Chan, a former soloist with Houston Ballet, joined City Ballet as a soloist in August 2021.
“I love the company, I love the people here and the city,” he said. “It has kept me excited.” He added that he hoped the new title would inspire Asian students “trying to fit into the dance community”.
The promotion comes as City Ballet plans an ambitious 2022-23 season after pandemic disruptions resulted in the loss of millions in ticket revenue. The company has been back on stage since September.
A perfect partner with starring attraction, Chan will make his final debut this season as Titania’s Cavalier in George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” closing the troupe’s spring season with 10 performances at Lincoln Center.
Chan was born in Guangdong, China, and was educated at the Guangzhou Art School. In 2019 he was a finalist of the Prix de Lausanne, an international competition in Switzerland for young dancers pursuing a professional ballet career. His placement as a finalist earned him a full scholarship to study with the Houston Ballet’s second company, Houston Ballet II.
In 2012, Chan joined Houston Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet and rose to the role of Principal Soloist in 2017. He was also a guest conductor with Hong Kong Ballet in 2018 and 2019.
Writing in DailyExpertNews, dance critic Gia Kourlas called Chan one of “generous dancers who stand out in a crowd,” adding that he “shows promise.”
Last year saw an unusually high number of retirements, with six directors having left since October. A seventh, Amar Ramasar, will retire at the end of this season and another, Sterling Hyltin, will be dancing her final role in “The Nutcracker” in December.
Chan, who turns 30 next month, called the promotion “an amazing birthday present.”
“It feels unreal,” he said. “I’m still shaking a little bit.”