Trailblazers 2021: Multitalented Chan Hon Goh finds success both on and off the stage

She's created a short film to celebrate International Dance Day

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      Even though Chan Hon Goh spent more than 20 years with the National Ballet of Canada, she realizes how ephemeral her art form can be. A pirouette or plié—or a career-ending injury—can happen in a flash.

      “I’m the first to admit that dance is fleeting as well,” Goh told the Straight by phone. “It’s there for the moment.”

      That’s what makes her staying power all the more remarkable. She has followed up her stunning dance career—which involved performing around the world—as a successful businesswoman, operating a ballet school, staging dance events, and writing a book.

      In advance of International Dance Day on Thursday (April 29), the director of the Goh Ballet Academy and Youth Company Canada has created a short film, “Together We Dance”, in partnership with the Vancouver International Dance Festival.

      The video was supported by Reitmans, which offered a scholarship, and was filmed by videographer Chris Randle.

      “The part that I created for Goh Ballet dancers is classical, and then I invited artists from different genres of dance, ranging from Broadway to tap to salsa to contemporary to Irish to flamenco,” Goh said. “So you’re going to see flashes of all these wonderful genres of dance that really ignite our passion, ignite our spirit. It really says it in the title: ‘Together We Dance’.”

      Goh Ballet Academy

      Role model for immigrant women

      The Beijing-born Goh’s parents were each principal dancers of the National Ballet of China; they moved to Vancouver in the mid-1970s.

      Goh established her bona fides as a trailblazer in 1994 when she became the first principal dancer of Chinese ancestry with the National Ballet of Canada. In that capacity, she thrilled audiences with her emotional depth and stunning talent until her retirement from the stage more than 15 years later.

      In the process, she became a role model for immigrant women.

      To her, dance is an irreplaceable part of her life.

      “It’s something indescribable,” Goh said. “It’s the feeling—and that feeling evolves according to my life experiences, the music, my environment, and the people I’m associating with.”

      She also thinks that dance is more essential than ever in the pandemic, when people are feeling isolated. Fortunately, technology has enabled dance artists to reach people in the comfort of their homes through video and online.

      “I really took International Dance Day as a vehicle to put a piece together where we can bring some hope, put a smile on people’s faces, and just bring people together in a dance,” Goh said.