A look back at the beginnings of Nathan Chen’s ballet

While skating supposedly tries to balance sport and art, the current scoring system places huge emphasis on jumping, with big numbers awarded for quads and a bonus awarded for jumps made in the second half of a program. At this point in his career, with young legs and a youthful fearlessness allowing him to launch himself into the air more easily, Chen fully understands the value of being off balance.

“If you can do so many quads, how could you not make it a big part of what you do?” Christie said.

(Perhaps coincidentally, Nureyev, who was a relatively latecomer to dancing, was dismissed as too athletic early in his career, and his jaw-dropping leaps and spins would always be a hallmark of his dancing. Of course, he didn’t. was not doing quads. Given the restrictions imposed by take-off from a standstill on a ground, three revolutions in the air was the limit in ballet.)

Chen’s ballet teachers feel that her rapid mastery of ballet leaps, called turns, and pirouettes, called pirouettes, comes from her skating. He practiced them constantly in a corner of the room during breaks in ballet class.

It was rare, Christie said, for 11- to 13-year-olds to do double turns, where the take-off comes from a knee bend (plié) and the landing ends in another plie. This is one of the reasons why teachers transferred Chen to advanced grades, with much older students, almost immediately after his mother, Hetty Wang, first enrolled him in the school. ballet.

“Nathan could do tricks that I would ask adults to do, and then he’d be like, ‘Is this supposed to be hard? ‘” Snarr said with a laugh.

Chen could also assume a stage persona very different from his personality, a trick most performers need years to master, especially in a wordless art form. This was evident in the two roles he played in different Nutcracker productions: Fritz, who is mischievous, and Drosselmeyer’s nephew, who is the opposite.

“As Fritz, he had to act like he thought he shouldn’t act, because Nathan was such a mature person from a young age,” Duke said. “As a nephew, he could bring his own personality to life. It was great to see him be himself on stage while being in character.”

Chen credits his older sisters, Alice and Janice, who also danced, with helping him “come out of himself”.

“I’m not naturally Fritz’s character, but everyone wanted this role because it’s one of the most important roles,” Chen said. “My sisters really helped me understand that when you’re on stage, you’re not yourself, you’re a different person.

“It’s something I was able to do in The Nutcracker and something I’m trying to apply to my skating as well.”

Don’t expect Chen to do anything dramatically out of character on the ice in the immediate future. Just appreciate the intricacies of what he can do now, intricacies often surpassed by his extraordinary leap.

“I would be surprised if Nathan is ever a flashy artist,” Christie said. “What will come as he gets older is a kind of calm, quivering presence, a dignity, a princely elegance.

“The fact that he’s had so much dancing in his life from the start already sets him apart from so many kids who skate.”