Girl in China learns ballet via online videos, becomes a star after viral pork shop dance

A handout photo. From pork shop to TV: A Chinese butcher’s talented daughter dances on national TV despite a lack of formal training.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A video of a schoolgirl dancing in a pork store has gone viral in mainland China, quickly racking up more than 230 million views, but it’s the story of how she got there that has inspired people.

Wu Gangyun, better known as Yun’er, is an 11-year-old primary school student from the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan who fell in love with dancing when she was seven years old.

"Dancing makes me happiest," Wu said.

She taught herself basic dance moves like backbends and somersaults by watching videos on her mother's phone.

Wu's talent was first noticed by her kindergarten teacher, said her mother, Li Xingqiao.

"The teacher asked who taught her these moves, and I told her that she learned them just from watching videos on my phone," Li told Red Star News. "The teacher then suggested she pursue formal dance training."

When Wu was eight years old, Li enrolled her in ballet classes, which cost 2,000 yuan (S$410) per semester. However, after the first semester, the family could not afford for Wu to continue with the classes.

"My husband worked as a truck driver, while my two daughters and I stayed at home, with monthly living expenses of around 1,000 yuan," Li said. "We couldn't really afford another semester of dance training for her."

Even after she was unable to attend formal training, Wu continued learning to dance using online videos.

While Wu was enrolled at a professional dance school early on, she had to leave after just one semester as her family struggled to pay the tuition fees. 
PHOTO: Weibo

To help bring in extra income, Li decided to open a pork shop a few years ago.

Wu would also visit the store before and after school to assist her mother with sales. In between helping her mother and finishing her homework she would practise dance moves in the cramped store.

Li, who describes herself as her daughter’s most devoted fan, would record Wu’s dance practice in the store and upload the videos to YouTube.

By 2018, the family’s financial situation had improved as the pork shop business grew and Li considered sending Wu to a dance school again.

Wu’s mother says her daughter will choose her own future, and she would never pressure her to pursue a path that took her away from her passion for dance after all her hard work.
PHOTO: Weibo

"I consulted many local dance teachers, but they all expressed concern that they would be unable to teach my daughter much due to our limited financial resources," Li said.

This changed when Li showed her daughter's videos to a friend who knew Zhang Ping, a professional teacher at the Beijing Dance Association.

Zhang had been running a project with her husband to help children from poor regional areas with dancing talent reach their potential.

After she was accepted into the project Wu's ballet dance skills improved under Zhang's tutelage. She was invited to perform on the CCTV stage in 2019 and has since been asked back several times.

When asked about her daughter's future plans for dance, Li said that she trusts her daughter's ability to decide her own future.

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"If I ask her to quit now, her nearly five years of training will be for nothing," Li said.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.