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胎死腹中 is a Chinese expression translated as “Stillbirth” or “Fetal death during pregnancy” in English. Apart from its literal meaning, some people would use it to describe the failure of a project: The process of “pregnancy” being the preparation/working phase, the final product of the project being the “baby”. You might be able to guess the meaning of this expression when used to describe a project: the preparation work is done, everything is ready for the final product to come out or to be published, yet for some reasons it just doesn’t, and the project ends without any result.

In my dancing career, I have come across quite a few 胎死腹中s…… unfortunately, it might be inevitable for most of us. Once, a certain fashion magazine proposed a video shooting in the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg. In my memory it was in November, when the weather was quite cold in Paris and it was just after rain, and the floor was still wet. From noon to around 5pm, I was dancing in shorts and a sleeveless top, an outfit chosen by the magazine, in the French park and the streets of Paris. “Nous avons froid pour vous!” (we are cold for you!), the passers-by told me. For the sake of self-promotion, we artists are sometimes willing to accept unfair offers…. Regrettably, it was a 胎死腹中. More than two years later, no one knows where those images and interview went. It is also impossible to get the footages back.

Another more concrete example in ballet is injury. From a personal point of view, you may get injured and can no longer perform in a certain production that you had been working on for months. That’s a common one. Or in a gala performance, a few dancers are injured and the gala has no longer a sufficient number of dancers for it to be feasible, and is cancelled.

Even outside ballet, 胎死腹中 is everywhere. Even without a proper experience, I can easily imagine employees in company working on an idea to be presented to their boss, just before the boss bans the entire idea. Or, the current global pandemic of Covid-19 certainly created too many 胎死腹中s in the world. The number of plans and shows and everything just all of a sudden are forced to be cancelled because of the lockdown or governmental restrictions.

How to deal with it? Maybe only experience teaches us how. The first times may be particularly painful, but each time we learn to accept a little better. When there’s nothing to do about it, we have no other choice than to accept it. Experience teaches me what I can do to minimise the risk of failure while in the “pregnancy” phase of a project. So I’d work hard so that no matter what, it ends with at least something. Anyway, with all the cancellations due to coronavirus, the whole world, I am sure, just gained at least a little in its capacity in dealing with, 胎死腹中.

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