Haojun Xie: In my boarding school, every day was a memory I'd rather forget

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Haojun Xie, dancer with 'Trocks', the world's foremost all-male comic ballet company, which performs in Belfast this month

Gail Bell

Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

When I get up in the morning, the first thing I will do is drink warm water and coffee to start my day. I do think how your day begins is really important. If I have a bad start, it can affect me all day long. And, if I have a good start, the whole day seems to go a lot better.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

Normally, breakfast will consist of avocado, eggs and maybe some oats.


Lunch is just normal meals for me like Chinese food, but it depends on my mood.

Evening meal?

All three meals are very important and for dinner I usually like light food like salads with lots of vegetables. I love vegetables and eat loads of them.


Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

Nutrition, to me, is very, very important - if I don't have good nutrition, I feel I cannot do anything as dancing is very physically demanding. What we put into our bodies, our fuel, is vital. That said, I don't really take health supplements, just some vitamins.


Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

Nope, I have not and I will never ever do it. Seriously, I think dieting can be very negative for a lot of people and the results are often unsustainable. It just defeats the whole purpose.


Weekend treat?

As a dancer, my weekend treat is resting and then some more resting... I just like taking care of my body, having a massage, going to the spa, things like that. I like to spend time with friends and my partner. I aim to unwind as much as possible at the weekend - if I am not performing, of course.


How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

I do Pilates every single day and work out four days a week. Pilates helps me a lot, physically. Of course, we have rehearsal and performances as well so that is all a big physical work-out. Mentally, I just try not to think that much and keep things easy.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Do something like Pilates every day and work out and move with something like swimming. Just 10 or 15 minutes each day of gentle stretching – quads, hamstrings, side bends - and strengthening exercises like squats, lunges and press-ups can make a huge difference, especially combined with swimming and regular walking. It doesn't have to be extreme to get the benefits.


Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I don't really remember - in my boarding school, every day was a memory I'd rather forget...


Teetotal or tipple?

I don't really drink – it is just not my thing – although I do enjoy orange wine. Generally, I prefer hot water and coffee.


Stairs or lift?

I guess half and half, depending on the buildings. Or how tired I am.


What book are you currently reading?

I am now reading a Japanese book, with a Japanese title, which in English, I guess you would call it, 'Decluttering'. I think there's a lot to be said for having clean, clear, calm spaces around you.


Best Netflix?

I like HBO better. My boyfriend and I really enjoy watching Game of Thrones together. Perhaps I should watch Netflix's Tidying Up with Marie Kondo programme - that would connect to my book rather well.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?

I found out that I believe that I can do what I need and what I want - and to know what I have to do to make it happen. With that in mind, I got my Pilates certification. I am very pleased about that.


Any new skills or hobbies?

Being a Pilates instructor is my new skill. My hobbies are all over the place.


How do you relax?

Sleep and more sleep. I'd like to invest in some really high-quality pillows and bed linen - at as high a thread count as I can afford.


What are your goals for 2022/23?

That is a good question - I haven't even thought about it yet. I guess I have been too busy with the tour. But this is a good prompt - I will probably be something to do with my Pilates practice.


What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

I get to bed normally on a day that we don't have a show at about 10 or 11 o'clock. I always aim to let myself get eight hours of sleep over a 24-hour period.


Biggest gripe?

No gripes - I just want to enjoy every single day that I have. I am very grateful for the life I have and I want to make the most of it.


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

They haven't really changed - I still love dance and I will keep dancing until I cannot do it any longer. Les Ballets Trockadero is a great company be part of. I love their ethos – that ballet is for everyone, regardless of shape, size, race, gender, sexuality. It's a very inspiring place to be. To hear the audience respond and enjoy what we do is very satisfying.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Yeah, I think so. It has shown me that keeping healthy is important and that you need to live in your life and enjoy it.

Haojun Xie will be performing with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at Belfast's Grand Opera House on October 28 and 29.