The story appears on

Page B2

March 27, 2011

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » People

Flora forever on her toes

CLAD in a fur coat and high-heeled boots, Flora Zeta walks like a ballet dancer. Refreshed and toned, the Hong Kong entrepreneur, fashion designer and former ballerina and actress is energetic, curious and filled with ideas.
Her latest projects are a performing arts education school in Beijing and a dance company of women at least six feet tall. (She herself is under six feet.) Zeta, who is in her early fifties, was born in Hong Kong and reared in South America. She had a truly international childhood - attending schools in Hong Kong, London, Paris, Russia and the United States. She started learning ballet when she was four. At the age of nine, she was selected from among 5,000 children to attend the Royal Ballet School in the UK, becoming the very first Asian girl to study there.
In 1980, she went to Hong Kong and became a star overnight when she performed in a TV musical about the Miss Hong Kong Pageant. She then signed contracts for more than 20 films and became an actress.
In 1981 Zeta launched her first clothing line, Pavlova, followed by more exotic fashion label Tian Art, and now the Flora Zeta couture collection. She also collaborates with a Chinese online shop targeting the mass market.
Today, the versatile Zeta is developing her own dance company, a China-based "neo-classical" troupe of women with international backgrounds, all standing at least six feet tall.
Zeta is also the founder and creative director of the Conservatory of International Style and Cultural Arts, a Beijing-based performing arts school that teaches children music, dance, acting and martial arts.
Most recently, her own troupe Tian Art Dance made its debut in Shanghai at a gala fashion event. Zeta choreographed an eight-minute dance as the prelude to the catwalk show, her inspiration coming from a recent trip to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
"It's about the suffering of a dancer and how she breaks free from emotional sufferings and haunting thoughts," she said. "She suffers for a purpose ... because I think people all need to have a purpose for life. Otherwise they are just drifters."
Q: You've been a dancer, an actress, a fashion designer and now an educator. Which role do you feel most comfortable with?
A: All of them represent different stages of my life. I like to call myself a choreographer who designs people. A year and half ago, I set up the Conservatory of International Style and Cultural Arts in Beijing, hoping to breed China's future performing artists who don't just have the skills, but also the knowledge, the mind, body and soul. I found performing artists in China often lack charisma and they need to be "educated."
The school is a complete performing arts school where students learn music, dance, martial arts and acting. It is based in Beijing but we also have classes in Shanghai. We have more than 300 students.
My role model, Martha Graham, was a beautiful choreographer who started her own school and dance troupe, and taught dancing until she was 88. I don't want to be just a dancer, or a fashion designer. I'm a choreographer ... and I want to have my own dance company. In fact, I'm working on it right now.
Q: Tell us more about your dance company Tian Art Dance.
A: It's an all-women troupe. I want all my girls to be tall - at least six feet. Female dancers are usually petite because they have to cope with their male partners. However, I just love the length of tall girls, and I'd love to have such length and elegance in my troupe.
We currently have six dancers, including Bonnie Chen, a Hong Kong-based internationally renowned super model. All of them are university graduates. Some of them are well-trained models, but I don't think they will be satisfied just walking the runway. Many dancers only dance. They have no life experience, creative power, constant control or international exposure - all are what I want my dancers to have. I personally design the costumes.
I would like to build my China-based dance company in a "neo-classic" way ... and I want to have more international dancers to join us. Together we will tour the world one day.
Q: How has dancing shaped your life?
A: Dancing is a magnificent way of training a person. It trains mind, body and soul. It teaches people how to "eat bitterness" - you can't just get what you want. You have to be persistent, and willing to sacrifice. Nowadays, a lot of young people don't want to sacrifice. They just want to do whatever they want to do ... and my advice is: don't be so weak.
Q: How do you keep yourself in perfect shape?
A: I keep myself busy. And I like good red wine. To enjoy life is very important to me.
Q: Do you still dance every day?
A: Yes, I teach students in my school. Sometimes I demonstrate to the children. I also go regularly to Tongji University to study the latest syllabus of the Royal Academy of Dance.
Q: How would you describe your personal fashion style?
A: Versatile. I like to wear all sorts of clothes by all kinds of designers, because I like to feel different things. I don't want to be stuck - and have clinging thoughts. And of course I wear my own designs.
Q: Do you consider yourself beautiful?
A: I think I'm more beautiful inside - outside, I'm not so sure ... You can't compare human beings in terms of looks. Deep inside, my quest to understand my soul never ends.
Q: What is your understanding of love?
A: There's a saying, "From a stone into a beautiful statue you need to be chiseled." And every chisel hurts. Love is all about giving. It's about suffering for each other. People always go wrong by considering love as: "Oh see, he/she's good to me!" That is not love. That is just convenient liking.Real love, to me, is when one goes through a big problem, or makes a huge mistake, and then his/her partner is still there, standing by.
Q: You mentioned "suffering." Why?
A: When I was young, I suffered a lot from practicing ballet. The funny thing is I used to get high on it. Nothing comes easily, otherwise there will be no challenge. All my life, I've been challenging myself to break into new territories.
When I wake up in the morning, if things go wrong, that's normal. If things happen to be good, that's a miracle. With that kind of thinking, I find myself very happy because there seem to be so many miracles every day! (laughs) I'm a happy person. I think happiness comes from discovering new things. For example, there are so many cities in the world, why would you want to be stuck in just one place?


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend