Ballet dancer from Hong Kong is Tampa dancing company's first international student

A rising star in the making has traveled across the world, from Hong Kong to Tampa, to help make her dancing dreams a reality.

At 20 years old, Chai Wong has traveled over 8,000 miles to lace up her ballet slippers inside the Straz Center's prestigious halls.

"They have different kind of style teachers. Some of them are maybe U.S. style, and also they have contemporary training," said Wong.

Wong has been doing ballet since she was just 6 years old, but now with the training from the Next Generation Ballet company, she's hoping to turn her passion into something more

"I think for my career I would want to go to a classical ballet company," Wong said.

For the next year, she and her fellow students will spend at least eight hours a day practicing and perfecting their craft.

"They start at 11, they can be rehearsing during Nutcracker as late as 8:30 at night. So they're here all day, they're fitting in their school work in between," said Phillip Neal, the Artistic Director with Next Generation Ballet.

But Wong is also making history as the first international student in the company's year round program.

"We just didn't have the I-20 status with the federal government, and you have to meet many restrictions to be applicable and we were finally granted that access," said Neal.

It's the first step in making Tampa an international destination for aspiring dancers.

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"I would love to walk down the hall and hear all these different languages and people sharing their culture and what they've learned," said Neal.

It's also one step closer to making Wong's dreams a reality.

"This will help me after I go home," said Wong.

If you want to see Wong and her company in action, they will be preforming The Nutcracker at the Straz later this year.

For information on show dates along with ticket information, visit the Straz Center's website.