Johnny W. Chang, formerly Zhang Wei-Qiang, from the People's Republic of China, joined the Royal Winnipeg Ballet as Principal Dancer in January 1992. For the Company’s 1999/00 season he became a Resident Guest Artist in order to devote more time to international guest appearances for the next three seasons. Before joining the RWB, Johnny was a freelance guest artist in Japan and Asia for five years. Formerly a principal dancer with the National Ballet of China, Johnny toured with the NBC to the US, the UK and Russia. He was also a principal dancer with the Beijing Dance Academy Ballet Company from 1981-84, where he also trained, graduating with top honours in 1979. Johnny attended summer classes in the United States with the Houston Ballet Academy in Texas before joining the Houston Ballet where he danced from 1979 - 1981.
Johnny has won national and international medals for dance excellence, including a Bronze medal from the 2nd International Ballet Competition in Jackson, U.S.A (1982), Second Prize from the 4th World Ballet Competition in Osaka, Japan (1984), a Bronze medal from the 5th Moscow International Ballet Competition (1985) and the Highest Honour Award from the 1st National Ballet Competition in Beijing, China (1985).
As a dancer, Johnny performed principal roles in most classical full length ballets and also short works including pieces by Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbin, George Balanchine, Rudi van Dantzig, Sir Peter Wright, Sir Frederick Ashton, Ben Stevenson and Mark Godden.
As one of the great dancers in the world, Johnny has studied and worked with many renowned teachers and cchoreographers from around the world: Ben Stevenson, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Dame Alicia Markova, Sir Anton Dolin, Rudolf Nureyev, Sir Peter Wright, Rudi van Dantzig, Alexander Grant, Melissa Haydem, Ronald Hand , Azari M Plissetski, Yuri Grigorovich, Merle Park, Sallie Wilson, Merrill Ashley, Faith Worth, and Galina Yordanova, Mark Godden and Val Caniparoli.
During the summer of 1996, Johnny started to work as Ballet Master with the Seoul Ballet Theatre and toured with them to Italy.
For two seasons from 2000-02, Johnny was both Resident Guest Artist and Ballet Master at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. He was appointed to full time Ballet Master in 2002/03 as part of the RWB’s artistic staff. In 2010, Johnny became the Senior Ballet Master with the RWB.
In 2004, for his farewell performances, Johnny danced the title role in Dracula in his home country, China, as the RWB toured to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Since becoming Ballet Master Johnny has been invited to teach, coach, and set ballets on the Seoul Ballet Theatre, Hong Kong Ballet, Slovak National Ballet Theatre, and the Greek National Ballet Theatre. He has also conducted workshops in Canada and in Japan. In the summer of 2011, Johnny had been invited to the National Ballet of China to teach and coach. This was his first visit back since leaving the National Ballet of China 25 years ago.
“Wei-Qiang seems to defy gravity with his leaps and spins. Instead of returning rapidly to the ground like most mere mortals would, he seems to float through the air in slow motion.”
– Winnipeg Free Press, 1999