Two generations of the Goh family, a Canadian ballet dynasty in dance and dance education, have been honored with the Diamond Jubilee Medal for their contribution to the arts and culture.
Goh Chiat Choo and his wife Goh Lin Yee, both former dancers with the Central Ballet of China, and their daughter, Goh Chan Hon, a former prima ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada, received the medals that were created to honor Britain' s Queen Elizabeth II 60th anniversary on the throne.
Since 1978, the family has been operating the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver, producing graduates who have gone on to find work in major ballet companies throughout the world, in addition to choreographers and dance teachers.
"It came as an absolute surprise," said the Beijing-born Goh Chan Hon. "Whenever you are recognized for doing something that you're incredibly passionate about it's a great feeling and it's humbling as well because to know that it's mattered and had an effect on others in your community and in your country."
Goh, who came to Canada as an eight-year-old and was the first Chinese to be named principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada, has been the driving force of the Goh Academy in recent years, carrying on the legacy of her parents after hanging up her ballet slippers as a performer in 2009.
In addition to acting as academy director, the 43-year-old is the founder of Principal by Chan Hon Goh, a manufacturer of pointe shoes and dance slippers, a promoter of ballet performances having presented The Nutcracker in each of the past four years, and the mother of a seven-year-old son.
She told Xinhua it was "huge transition" for her to go from being in the spotlight as a principal dancer traveling the world to being behind the scenes mentoring aspiring dancers, but added the experience was "incredibly rewarding."
Goh paid tribute to her Singapore-born father, a former Central Ballet of China principal dancer, who after training in London as young man moved to Beijing in the 1950s to be closer to his Chinese roots. She said through the hard work of her parents in moving to Canada and establishing the academy, it made the transition from performer to private life easier for her.
It seemed inevitable that she would go into the family business as four of her father's brothers pursued careers in ballet, including her late uncle, Goh Chan San, a celebrated choreographer in the U.S.
"I feel very privileged. Most dancers when they stop dancing they have to figure it out and they don't have something to go into right away. I come from an extremely artistic and passionate family and they've built this training institute," she said. "This is our 35th anniversary and I now have the opportunity to run it and to raise the bars even higher to put some of my vision into the artistic growth of this entity so I feel empowered by that."
As a frequent visitor to China in recent years, Goh will return to the capital in July when she participates in the 2nd Beijing International Ballet and Choreographer Competition at the National Theater.
This week, the Goh Academy will host a master class with the National Ballet of China' s ballet master who will be in Vancouver when the company performs its version of Swan Lake, the first time the celebrated troupe has toured Canada.
"I think as artists we need a lot to feed our creative souls and a lot of exchange opportunities," Goh said.
"Because of my heritage and where my parents received their ballet training, China and Goh Ballet have very strong ties. We also have wonderful relationships with other institutions that create these cultural exchange opportunities."
With the popularity of TV dance contest programs around the world, Goh feels this has been good for ballet, but adds it still need to become more accessible. To do so, Goh Ballet students regularly perform in local schools and at different functions.
"Ballet should be enjoyed by everyone. Through so many programs that we offer here (at the academy), as well as production, and offering ticket prices at every different level, that allows the general public better access. I believe in that a lot. I believe it's about educating the audience as well into what we do as part of the arts and to be able to speak with them on an emotional basis."
If anything, adds Goh, dance, whatever a person's preferred type, is an excellent source of exercise for children and adults alike.
"In this age of technology where it is very easy to just sit down and look upon a screen, youth and youngsters should be finding ways to express. There are so many different forms of dance. Ballet happens to be my love and my passion, but there are so many genres of dance that once a person can find their own expression, I would encourage that a lot."