By: Victoria Mescall
Sally Hong is a beloved dance instructor and professor at Sacred Heart. She teaches and choreographs for the SHU Dance Company, coaches and instructs movement for the SHU color guard and winterguard, and teaches at a local high school as well.
Hong has performed on many stages in her life, and her career accolades include Broadway casts and tours, and a six-year term as a Radio City Rockette.
“I was five years old when I got into dance,” said Hong. “Growing up in Hong Kong I saw a ballerina in a television show and I started to ask my mom for ballet classes because at the time that was the only genre.”
When she was 11, Hong’s family moved from Hong Kong to California in search of the American Dream. She began taking dance again at age thirteen, where she started in Jazz lessons.
“There was one day I showed up to the studio early and no one was there, but I heard sounds, so I went to the back of the studio and they were tapping,” said Hong. “My jaw just about hit the ground. I had never seen tap dance before. I thought, ‘I can be making sound when I dance!’”
Hong attended the University of Southern California as a theatre major, and then began her professional performance career in Los Angeles. She did thirteen productions on the west coast before heading to New York.
A lot of dance companies do kick lines, a lot of companies have pretty ladies and glamorous costumes. But the Rockettes are the only ones who do soldiers and the toy soldier fall.
“I was very impressed with the Toy Soldier choreography as a little girl watching the Thanksgiving Day parade in America,” said Hong. “So, when I saw the Rockettes audition, I tried out. I made it on my first try.” Hong performed with the Rockettes for six years.
“This past December, I was a part of the Broadway Cares Equity Fights Aids fundraiser. The opening number of the benefit show was dedicated to my old show, the casts of Flower Drum Song the Musical,” said Hong.
It was the original cast’s 60th anniversary and then Hong’s show, the revival from 2002, their sixteenth anniversary. Hong was even asked to assistant choreograph the number, and using her experience as a swing, taught the ensemble the nine minutes and twenty second number for the fundraiser.
“Because I was a swing on Broadway I learned more than just my part of the show – I learned everyone’s part and some of the guys too,” said Hong. “The afternoon before we started rehearsal for the fundraiser I was asked if I could just teach the whole number, and that was really exciting. The ensemble they picked for the performance were all current Asian ensemble performers, so if I was born sixteen years later, these guys would be my family.”
In her time after Broadway and Radio City, Hong has received rave reviews from her students.
“Sally is amazing,” said junior colorguard member Rob McMullin. “She has helped me grow so much as a dancer. The most important part of how she teaches is that she truly cares about individual growth and will help explain everything until you get it. She is extremely fun and talented and has allowed the whole team to grow in technique while still having fun.”
Hong even encourages students who want to one day be Rockettes.
“Sally is kind and fantastic and supports everyone’s dreams,” said junior Dance Company member Allie Eldridge. “She makes sure to create a healthy balance for advanced dancers and inexperienced dancers in her classes.”
When asked to consider all her career performances, Hong said her favorite number she ever performed was the Rockette’s Toy Soldiers.
“But It’s hard to choose my favorite show,” said Hong. “Because every time I do a new show that has to be my favorite. As far as the closeness of the cast, my favorite was ‘Flower Drum Song’. And being given the opportunity to come back to a Broadway stage after sixteen years felt like coming home.”