Jingjing Mao
Photo: Sebastien Galtier

Jingjing Mao


As a young child, Jingjing Mao (born in China) liked nothing more than to dance and sing. “Nowadays, I hate singing, because I think my voice is terrible.” But the dancing really took off from the day her mother took her to a dance studio as a three-year-old, where the children’s dance classes gradually made way for ballet classes.

When Jingjing was nine, her teacher told her she had what it takes to become a professional dancer, but that to do so she’d have to go to Beijing. “And yes, that’s what I wanted, because I wanted to improve.” But she wasn’t prepared for all it involved: the train journey to Beijing took seven hours, she could only go home in the holidays and at the Beijing Dance Academy boarding school she suddenly had to do her own laundry and clean her room. “I was in quite a panic, but fortunately the other students looked after me well. And I loved the classes right from the start. I immediately understood the logic of the training and the steps.” The schooling was tough and involved getting up at six o’clock every morning, doing dance classes and regular school lessons all day and then individual coaching classes in the evening. “But looking back, I realise it made me physically and mentally strong, and I’m still benefiting from that today.”

Positive shock 

In 2010, at the invitation of the Académie Princesse Grace, her school performed at a dance gala in Monaco. Jingjing – who was then sixteen and had never been in Europe before – met Ted Brandsen there, the artistic director of Dutch National Ballet, who told her after the gala performance that she’d be welcome in his company. “I already knew the company from the internet, and of course everyone knows Hans van Manen”, and so she decided to temporarily relinquish her original dream of dancing with the National Ballet of China in favour of a European adventure. Just like when she was nine, it came as quite a shock, but this time, she laughs, ‘it was a positive shock’. “It’s true I didn’t speak a word of English and the Dutch culture is very different to the Chinese one. But people here are much more open and much calmer, and there’s far less stress. I thought I’d just come here for a year, to improve my dancing skills, because to be quite honest I never expected I’d enjoy myself so much in Amsterdam and with the company.” 


What especially appeals to her is the quality of her fellow dancers and the diversity of Dutch National Ballet’s repertoire. “I wanted to dance Hans van Manen ballets, as well as the classics.” And she sees it as a huge bonus that on top of that she’s been able to perform creations by choreographers like David Dawson, Wayne McGregor and William Forsythe. “Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, in particular, was a revelation. For a long time, I thought I was only capable of dancing works based on the classical ballet technique, but Wayne showed me that there are also totally different possibilities, with regard to breathing and muscle techniques. Chroma expanded my horizons enormously and made me aware of my range of physical potential.” 

Of all the big classical ballets, Swan Lake is her favourite by far. “Already as a child, I wanted to dance it. Of course it’s a beautiful ballet just in itself, but it’s really great that the main role involves portraying two totally different characters: the black swan Odile – strong, seductive and technically perfect – and the gentle, vulnerable white swan Odette. That means I can put so much into it, and draw on so many different sides of my personality.” Nevertheless, she says she’s more of a lyrical than a technical dancer. “For me, the main thing is that I can express my emotions in dance. With regard to that, I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’m working on it.” 

‘I just love to dance!’ 

Jingjing’s (new) life motto is that you’re responsible for your own happiness. “Not everything goes as smoothly as you want in life, but you have to be content with what you’ve got. I’m working on that and it really helps. It’s all about the right mindset. If you always want more or continually want to climb higher, you’ll never be happy.” For her, in any case, an essential part of being able to experience happiness is having the opportunity to dance – just like when she was three. “I can’t imagine life without it. I just love to dance! When my career as a ballet dancer ends, I’m going to throw myself into hiphop or go to jazz dance classes. I think all types of dance are incredibly cool.” 


Place of birth: 
Wuhan (Hubei, China) 

With Dutch National Ballet since: 

Career with Dutch National Ballet: 
Soloist (2022), grand sujet (2017), coryphée (2015), corps de ballet, élève (2011), aspirant (2010)

Beijing Dance Academy (China)


  • 2009: Youth America Grand Prix, New York, prize for excellence 

  • 2009: Tao Li Bei Dance Competition, Beijing, first prize 

  • 2008: International Ballet Invitational, Beijing, third prize