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YuanYuan Tan was born in Shanghai, China, and entered Shanghai Dancing School at the age of 11, where she completed the 7-year program within 5 years. During her years as a student, Tan won the silver medal at the International Ballet Competition in Helsinki, Finland at the age of 15. In the following years, she won the “only gold medal” at both international ballet competitions in Paris, France and Nagoya, Japan. In these two competitions, She also won the “Medal of the City of Paris “ and “Nijkinsky Award”, usually described as “Osars of Dance World”, as well as the Bronze Statue of Nijinsky, issued by Paris City Hall and the Polish Ambassador to Japan. She was praised as “talented girl” and “China’s Miracle” by foreign media.
In 1992, Tan graduated with honors and received a “Certificate of Outstanding Graduate” and a certificate of “Merit Student in Shanghai”; in 1993, she received two “certificates of honor” from China Ministry of Culture, and enjoyed “special government allowance” of State Council of the People’s Republic of China in the same year. At 17, she was granted a full scholarship by Stuttgart’s John Cranko School and studied in Germany. Tan graduated from the Arts Department of Saint Mary’s College of California with a Bachelor’s degree.
At the invitation of Heigi Tomasson, master and art director of San Francisco Ballet, YuanYuan Tan joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist in 1995 and became a principal dancer one and half years later. She has danced lead female roles in many classical and contemporary works, including “Swan Lake”, “Giselle”, “The Sleeping Beauty”, “Don Quixote”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Nutcracker”, “Cinderella”, “Othello”, “Onegin” and “The Little Mermaid”. She is also engaged in many modern and contemporary ballet dances with different styles and themes, including “After the Rain”, “Firebird”, “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, “Distant Cries”, “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”, “Golden Time” and some other works of choreography masters such as George Balanchine, Maurice Bejart and Roland Petit.
YuanYuan Tan was highly praised as “a great jewel on ballet crown” by a dance critic in London, a combination of “elegant and delicate, also bold and unstrained qualities” by a dance critic of New York Times, and the best interpreter of Giselle in the history by Japanese magazine “Dance”. The editor-in-chief of American magazine “Dance” complimented she “is surprising, amazing, dreamy, powerful, and combines unique beauty of eastern and western elements”. YuanYuan Tan has appeared on the covers of various core journals of “Dance” in Europe, America and Japan. “Othello”, “The Little Mermaid” and “Nutcracker” starring YuanYuan are available on DVD and released globally. She has planned and organized several “international ballet stars special performances”, created a ballet work of “Habanera”, and published her autobiography of “I and Ballet”. In 2013, she was invited to serve as a judge of the 2nd International Ballet and Choreography Competition in Beijing, China, In 2018, she was invited to serve as a judge of the 6th International Ballet Competition in Shanghai, China.
In her career spanning 24 years, YuanYuan Tan has won many awards:
In January 2000, she was included in the “101 World Ballet Dancers in the 20th Century (1889 - 1999) by Japanese professional magazine “Dance”, being the only Chinese ballerina winning this award
In 2003, the “Youth Model Award” from the American “World Journal”
In 2004, “Hero of Asia” in the Asian edition of “Time” and was featured on its cover
In 2010, “Excellence Award” from “The Committee of 100”, an elite organization of distinguished Chinese Americans, together with four Nobel prize winners – Chen Ning Yang, Daniel Tsui, Steven Chu and Charles K. Kao, and celebrities such as Lien Chan and Cheng Siwei
In 2012, “Outstanding Immigrant Award” from Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation
In 2012, “Outstanding Artist Award” from Chinese Culture Foundation of San Francisco
In 2013, the 56 Annual “Lifetime Achievement Award” from American professional magazine “Dance Magazine”
In 2014, UK National Dance Awards - Outstanding Female Performance (Classical)
In 2015, “You Bring Charm to the World Award” from HKSTV
In 2016, “Special Contributions Award” from The 18th China Shanghai International Arts Festival
In 2018, “Mayor Art Award “ from San Francisco USA , and “Yuan Yuan Tan Day” identified as Apr 9th, 2018
In 2019, “Magnolia Silver Award” from Shanghai Municipal Foreign Affairs Office.