Chun Wai Chan Promoted to Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet announced on Friday that it was promoting Chun Wai Chan to the role of principal dancer. He will be the company’s first Chinese principal, and just the fourth Asian to hold that rank. Chan, a former principal with Houston Ballet, joined City Ballet as a soloist in August 2021.

“I love the company, I love the people here and also the city,” he said. “It’s kept me excited.” He added that he hoped the new title would inspire Asian students “trying to fit in in the dance community.”

The promotion comes as City Ballet plans an ambitious 2022-23 season after pandemic disruptions resulted in the loss of millions in ticket revenue. The company has been back onstage since September.

Chan, a consummate partner with leading man appeal, will make his final debut this season in the role of Titania’s Cavalier in George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which closes out the company’s spring season with 10 performances at Lincoln Center.

Chan was born in Guangdong, China, and trained at the Guangzhou Art School. In 2010, he was a finalist at the Prix de Lausanne, an international competition in Switzerland for young dancers seeking to pursue professional careers in ballet. His finalist placement earned him a full scholarship to study with the Houston Ballet’s second company, Houston Ballet II.

In 2012, Chan joined Houston Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet and ascended to the role of principal in 2017. He was also a guest principal with Hong Kong Ballet in 2018 and 2019.

Writing in The New York Times, the dance critic Gia Kourlas called Chan one of the “generous dancers who stand out in a crowd,” adding that he “shows promise.”

The last year has seen an unusually high number of retirements — six principals have left since October. A seventh, Amar Ramasar, is set to retire at the end of this season and another, Sterling Hyltin, will dance her final role, in “The Nutcracker,” in December.

Chan, who turns 30 next month, called the promotion “an amazing birthday gift.”

“It feels unreal,” he said. “I’m still kind of shaking.”