Joanne Tam
Class of 1992


Musician, music educator and freelance broadcaster


As a freelance musician and music educator, my Saturday mornings used to begin with the first student skipping or dragging his/her feet through my door for a weekly lesson. Since the onset of COVID-19 in Hong Kong, this familiar pattern had been broken, leaving many musicians, like me, at a loss. Fortunately, soon after the closure of schools and leisure activity venues, ideas about making music together and holding music classes online mushroomed and we could continue with our livelihoods. For the past two months, I have been getting used to waving to my students on the phone or laptop screen, as well as to their lovely pets, cuddly toys and noisy siblings before each class.

Being a keen dancer in my leisure time, I quickly realized that dancers and drama artists were in a more precarious position, so when Radio Television Hong Kong invited me to present a mini-series on Radio 4 to investigate the effect of COVID-19 on musicians, I shifted the focus to my other love - ballet. Back in late March, the virtual dance world was much less developed than its music counterpart – after all, how can a dancer or choreographer get used to correct spacing in a group dance, or practise a pas de deux without a partner being physically there?

In two episodes of Artbeat1, I first looked locally in Hong Kong, at how COVID-19 has affected the Hong Kong Ballet, freelance dancers and independent dance teachers2. In the second episode, I extended my outlook to Hong Kong dancers overseas, at the Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet Frontier in Texas, and independent instructors in Canada3. I was heartened to find that both major companies, Hong Kong Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet, were well supported by the government, and Ballet Frontier has been able to fulfill their commitment in retaining and paying their staff by adaptation to online courses. Professional dancers in Hong Kong, Paris and the US were all able to give support to each other by meeting virtually for short dance exercises every day, and the companies helped by providing recycled non-slip marley dance flooring to ensure their dancers' safety in their homes. Dance instructors became social connectors and mentors for their students and their parents, as they felt that the emotional well-being of these children and adults took precedence over acquisition of new routines. Dance lessons emerged as a means of bringing joy and alleviating anxieties brought on by COVID-19 isolation and social distancing. The advice for dancers to take this time to also explore other arts to enhance their artistry, is probably a sound one for other professions as well.

After the interviews, I came away feeling positive, having realized that their resolve over this pandemic period had made my fellow artists understand and love their art even more. I also hoped that other performing artists in less fortunate circumstances would be encouraged to stay strong and continue with their passion. It made me realize what a blessed life I've had, albeit it not being high-profile or trailblazing. For that I am truly thankful.

The interviews are available at To access them, click on 'R4' and then type in "Artbeat" under "SEARCH". Then click on the Artbeat programmes broadcast on 4 April 2020 and 18 April 2020 respectively. Enjoy!

My sincere best wishes for everyone to stay safe! Together, we can conquer.


(1) Artbeat is a weekly one-hour programme on Saturdays on RTHK Radio 4, looking at recent happenings in the arts world.
(2) Guests interviewed were Mr. Septime Webre, Artistic Director of the Hong Kong Ballet, and Miss Irene Lo, former soloist of the Hong Kong Ballet, now faculty member of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
(3) Guests interviewed were Lam Chun-Wing, the first Chinese ever to have been accepted by the Paris Opera Ballet; Tseng Chung-Lin, dancer trained at the HK Academy for Performing Arts, who is now artistic director of his own company in Texas, Ballet Frontier; and Harriet Chung, graduate of the HK Academy for Performing Arts and the National Ballet of Canada.