Hailing from San Francisco, California, Candy’s journey from a young prodigy to a versatile artist has taken her across the globe, allowing her to leave an indelible mark on the world of dance. With her remarkable accomplishments, dedication to her craft, and multiple artistic pursuits, Candy Tong has established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Let’s delve into the inspiring story of the contemporary ballet dancer.
Early Years and Training
Candy Tong’s love affair with ballet began in her hometown of San Francisco, where she embarked on her training at the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School on a full scholarship. Her dedication and talent propelled her to new heights, and she eventually graduated from the English National Ballet School in London, England. She recalled about her initial dancing style, “During my adolescent period until approximately 18 years old, I matured as a bunhead and remained deeply devoted to the principles of classical ballet. I displayed significant reluctance when it came to adjusting to the new style.”
It was during her time at the English National Ballet School that Candy discovered her passion for contemporary ballet, working with renowned choreographers and pushing the boundaries of her artistic expression.”Perhaps it was the recognition that I didn’t quite conform to the traditional ballet archetype, or perhaps it was the realization of my talent in contemporary ballet. Regardless, one thing became certain – I developed a deep affection for it!”
Accolades and Professional Journey
Candy’s exceptional abilities garnered recognition early on in her career. She clinched the title of Miss Dance of California in 2013, impressing the judges with her exceptional skills. She also achieved commendable placements at esteemed competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix and the American Ballet Competition. Her talent and dedication earned her an invitation to participate in the prestigious Helsinki International Ballet Competition in Finland.
Throughout her career, Candy has had the privilege of working with esteemed choreographers, including George Balanchine, Helgi Tomasson, Drew Jacoby, Anna Marie-Holmes, Kerri Nichols, Dwight Rhoden, and Desmond Richardson, among others. Her performances have taken her to renowned venues worldwide, enchanting audiences with her mesmerizing artistry and versatility.
Candy’s journey continues to evolve, and she remains an active and prominent figure in the dance world. She graduated with a BFA in Dance Performance from the Claire Trevor School of the Arts at the University of California, Irvine.
A career with Complexions
Presently, Candy is in her fourth season with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, one of the world’s premier contemporary ballet companies. Founded by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden in 1994, Complexions aims to redefine dance by blending various techniques, styles, and cultural influences.
A lighthearted chuckle escaped her as she reminisced about her initial encounter with the company, “I attempted to join Complexions on two occasions! During my initial audition (if memory serves me right, I was around 16 years old), I possessed minimal knowledge about the company and was rather clueless about the process (a classic rookie mistake). I simply followed others’ advice that I would be a suitable candidate. Obviously, I didn’t make it past the first round.”
Her second time auditioning for Complexions was in mid-August 2017. “This time around, I had acquired an extensive understanding of the company. During a scorching and muggy New York City summer, I exuded confidence and ease throughout the demanding six-hour audition held at Gibney studios. Familiarity with a portion of the repertoire we were required to perform granted me a sense of tranquility. Despite the arduous nature of the audition, I concluded it with a resolute belief in my commendable performance.” Her dream came true when she received an offer to join the company in December 2017.
As a member of the company, Candy has had the opportunity to perform in groundbreaking productions, including their latest work, “Love Rocks,” a rock ‘n’ roll ballet set to the music of Lenny Kravitz.
Other Endeavors and Beyond
Beyond her dance career, Candy Tong has embraced modeling as another outlet for her creativity and expression, being signed with State Management in New York City. Her modeling endeavors have seen her featured in various campaigns and publications, including the Galleries Lafayette in Paris, the Huffington Post, Reebok, and Nikon Europe’s ad campaigns.
Candy Tong has embraced entrepreneurship by founding her own luxury dancewear company, Candy Tong Collection. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, she successfully launched her collection, which has gained popularity worldwide and been featured in renowned dance competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix.
From a budding ballerina to a multifaceted artist, Candy Tong’s unwavering dedication, passion, and versatility have propelled her to new heights. With each graceful movement, she reminds us that true artistry knows no boundaries.
Let’s engage in further discussion with Candy Tong to gain deeper insights into her lifestyle and philosophy.
HBZ: What is your preferred fashion brand, and in what ways do you utilize fashion to express your personality publicly?
CANDY TONG: I don’t have a specific fashion brand or designer that I favor. My personal aesthetic is a fusion of elegance, sensuality, athleticism, and minimalism. I gravitate towards pieces that set me apart from the crowd, acting as captivating showstoppers. I embrace boldness and take risks with my outfits, as I find that dressing impeccably boosts my confidence to the fullest extent.
HBZ: Who among the individuals who have influenced you as a ballet dancer has had the most profound and enduring impact on your artistic journey?
CANDY TONG: Sofiane Sylve, Muriel Maffre, and Drew Jacoby are legendary principal dancers who have transitioned into roles as CEOs or Artistic Directors. They all surpass the height of 6 ft. As a 5’10” ballerina myself, I didn’t encounter many dancers who shared my physical appearance or stature during my upbringing. Fortunately, I had the privilege of being mentored by Muriel and Drew during my training years. They taught me how to move swiftly and powerfully while utilizing the full range and elongation of my hypermobile limbs. They have inspired me to give back to the younger generation. Today, I serve as a mentor to numerous young girls who aspire to become professional dancers, particularly those who are tall and share my racial background.
HBZ: In addition to your involvement in contemporary ballet, what are your other hobbies? How do you leverage these activities to maintain a sense of equilibrium amidst your daily commitments?
CANDY TONG: Besides dancing, modeling, and designing Candy Tong Collection, I am a big sports fan. I grew up with two older brothers and a mom and dad that loves sports. It is in my genes to be the same. As a ballerina, I like to have a good work life balance. When not in the studio, I enjoy trying new restaurants, bars, fun pop-ups, or physical activities that New York City has to offer. I am not a homebody at all, so you can often find me lifting heavy weights at the gym, boxing, cycling on the West End Highway, or shopping on 5th avenue.
HBZ: What would you say about the photo shoot conducted for this HBZVN cover?
CANDY TONG: The photoshoot, which took place at the Art Factory in Paterson, New Jersey, was a remarkable experience. I, along with photographer Tom Marvel and fashion designer John Ashford, orchestrated this awe-inspiring session, with the invaluable assistance of hair and makeup artists Nikki Jelin and George Grierson.
It marked my first collaboration with another fashion designer on a photoshoot, resulting in an unforgettable encounter. Witnessing the fusion of two distinct yet harmonious styles was truly captivating. John’s unique and daring aesthetic complemented CTC perfectly, adding an extra layer of intrigue to each completed look. Moreover, Tom’s creative vision breathed life into the designs from both John’s and my collections, amplifying their essence within the captured images.
HBZ: Can you please give us more insights about your fashion brand, Candy Tong Collection?
CANDY TONG: The Candy Tong Collection emerged amidst the pandemic in 2020, establishing its roots in the vibrant heart of New York City. Drawing inspiration from unforgettable nights in global metropolises such as New York, London, and Shanghai, the collection transcends boundaries, crafted in limited production runs across Europe. As the designer myself, I am personally involved in selecting the finest, most opulent French and Italian fabrics, ensuring each piece is unique and designed to enhance your confidence and appearance. Every step of the process, from design to sourcing, is meticulously overseen by our dedicated team to deliver dancewear that exudes luxury and comfort, all at an affordable price point.
Photographer Tom Marvel @tommarvelphotography | www.tommarvelphotography.net
Model: Candy Tong @candytong12 | www.candy-tong.com.
Stylist: John Ashford @johnashfordshoes | www.authenticbyjohnashford.com.
Make up: Nikki Jelin @nikkij_mua.
Hair: George Grierson @geoxge | www.geoxge.com.
Venue: The Art Factory @artfactorypaterson | www.myfactorystores.com.
Wardrobe: Candy Tong Collection @candytongcollection.
Authentic by John Ashford @johnashfordshoes.
Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam