For a young ballet dancer, it doesn’t get much better than opening your Nutcracker casting letter to find out that you’ve received the role of Clara. This year, San José Dance Theatre presented this news to three dancers, Amanda Baumann, Mia Watson Fong and Chloe Moulton. After a collective 30 years of study between the three dancers, and having performed in countless Nutcrackers, receiving the coveted role of “Clara” is their first opportunity as dancers to carry the narrative of a ballet. Yet all three dancers have their own unique style and path that has led them to this role. All three dancers share their story of dedication and success in their spotlight profiles.
Introducing Mia Watson Fong, a freshman at Los Gatos High School.
Mia Watson Fong
9th Grade, Los Gatos High School
HAVE YOU ALWAYS DREAMED OF BEING CLARA, AND WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO HAVE THIS ESTEEMED ROLE? WHAT ASPECTS OF THE ROLE ARE DEMANDING ON YOU?
I never thought I’d have a chance to dance the role of Clara! I was pretty shocked to be offered this esteemed role and it took a while to sink in. After countless weeks of rehearsals, I have really enjoyed playing Clara and bringing her personality to life through dancing and acting with the other characters. I think the most demanding part of being Clara is the time commitment. It requires many extra rehearsals, so I dance 6 days a week, making it really challenging to stay on top of schoolwork.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU TOOK YOUR FIRST BALLET CLASS? DID YOU IMMEDIATELY FEEL PASSIONATE ABOUT IT?
I was around four and a half when I took my first ballet class. I remember I was wearing the wrong kind of tights and my bun was teetering precariously on top of my head. The girls were nice enough but the instructor was strict and terrifying to me, and yet I felt drawn to the sense of order and discipline in that ballet studio. I don’t think I was immediately passionate about ballet, but I definitely liked it.
WALK US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF MIA FONG?
On a typical weekday I wake up around 5:50am to get ready for school. I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains and have to leave the house by 7am or risk getting stuck in Hwy 17 traffic to Los Gatos High School. After school, I go to the library to do homework with my friends and afterward I’m off to ballet for 2-3 hours. I usually get home by 8:30pm, have dinner, do homework and get to bed around 11 or later.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE, DOES BALLET HAVE A ROLE?
I am very interested in Science, especially in astronomy, and hope to become an astrophysicist. My plan after getting my PhD is to travel the world as a postdoctoral researcher, and I hope to get a government job with NASA. I’d like to have a husband and family and work as a professor at a college. There may not be much room for ballet in my schedule, but ballet lives inside of me and I think I will always take classes wherever I am.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT BALLERINAS?
Some people think dancers aren’t very smart and they also believe ballet dancers are completely self-involved. Really, ballet dancers are kind, caring and extremely knowledgeable. Dancers have to be very disciplined because there is so little down time. They have to anticipate and work ahead of schedule to finish assignments before the due date to avoid last minute panicking.
Another misconception, some consider ballet dancers to be weak in comparison with the “big athletes,” but in reality, dancers are much stronger overall. Try the New York Five or stand on the balls of your feet with knees straight in passé for five minutes.
IN WHAT WAYS IS YOUR CHILDHOOD DIFFERENT FROM YOUR NON-BALLET FRIENDS?
I’m not sure my life is that different from my friends, I spend most of my spare time working on homework and school projects. Many of my friends are also athletes and are busy with their sports like rowing and soccer. Although, I must say, practically the only time I have to hang out with friends, outside of ballet, is during school and right after school in the library. When I do have spare time away from homework, I like to relax spending time with my chickens or reading novels. I try to make time every night to stargaze.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman really sticks with me, even a few years after reading it. It’s a heartwarming book about this curmudgeonly old man on a personal journey. I love books that are so powerful that I leap right into them and, boom, I’m in a whole new world. I like to experience what the characters are feeling, heartbreak, loneliness, exultant, embarrassed, and even enraged. Ove touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I enjoy learning about the frailties of being human through characters in books.
YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
The Truman Show is a great movie about the human spirit and our influence over others. It also delves into ethical questions about what humans are capable of doing, which really intrigues me. I have watched it at least ten times and it really never gets old.
YOUR FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN LOS GATOS?
Definitely, Andalé Mexican Restaurant. Their Serrano tofu tacos are my favorite with a glass of horchata. Their food is so delicious and comforting.
Oh, and I have to mention Kamakura Japanese Restaurant, I love their “Oh, Yes!” roll and Hamachi Kama. Even though we don’t get to go often they always remember us and are so warm and kind.
I pretty much love all food, except I have been a vegetarian my whole life, so no meat for me (except for fish). My favorite foods are kale, bread and cheese.