By Godfrey Lee
John Lam. Photograph by Gene Schiavone.
Cheryl Jennings, Anchor at ABC7 News, interviewing John Lam. Photo by Godfrey Lee.
John Lam, a dance soloist with the Boston Ballet, returned home to San Rafael to dance in the Marin Ballet 50th Anniversary Reunion Performance Saturday, April 13.
Lam trained at the Marin Ballet for more than 10 years before going on to complete his training at the Canada’s National Ballet School.
Lam was also honored by his early mentor and teacher Felecia Gaston, director of Performing Stars of Marin, at a celebration on Friday, April 12 at the Al Boro Community Center in San Rafael.
Other performers included the Marin Chinese Cultural Lion Dancing group doing a lion dance. ChauntiAna Thomas, a 12 year old with a video on YouTube, sang “Hero.”
Pashia Lord, and Performing Stars alumni sang “I Know Where I’ve Been, ” and Performing Stars/Branson High School Leap Dancers also performed.
Joyce Williams and Louella J. Reed helped at the raffle table. Deborah Santana donated a diamond ring as a grand prize for the raffle.
Julian Thu Soung, Mrs. Vietnam USA, congratulated Lam, who is her cousin. Cheryl Jennings, news anchor at ABC7, was mistress of ceremonies.
“My parents are refugees from Vietnam,” said Lam. His family lived in the low-income Canal District of San Rafael. While his parents worked full time to support three children, he was in a community daycare program, and there learned about the Marin Ballet Scholarships.
Marin Ballet co-founder Phyllis Thelan brought up the idea of scholarships more than 20 years ago, after seeing a dance program in New York that worked with inner-city kids. While Thelan had the scholarships, she also learned that it took someone, like Felecia Gaston, to find those children and take the scholarship offers to them.
Gaston went to the child-care center, and asked ‘Who wants to take ballet?’ Lam was the only boy that said, “I do, I do.”
“The only reason why I was able to go to Marin Ballet was because of Performing Stars of Marin. They were a very huge influence in making sure I had my ballet shoes, my uniform, making sure I had transportation, ” Lam said.
Marin Ballet took over Lam’s training and helped him go to the National Ballet of Canada, where Lam completed his training and high school education. Lam went on to dance professionally with the Boston Ballet.
Even as Lam has become a professional dancer, the Marin Ballet is still “like family to me,” he said. “This is what happens with a child that comes from the Canal District.”