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John Lam breaks down barriers while dancing towards success

By Victoria Feng, AsAmNews Intern

At a young age, John Lam attended his first ballet at the San Francisco Ballet and saw men and women dancing on stage. Lam had first stepped into a ballet studio at four years old, but wanted to quit after seeing no other boys. The experience at the San Francisco Ballet showed him boys could be dancers too and left him feeling emotions of calmness and curiousity.

Around 20 years later, Lam is still dancing and has been a principal dancer at the Boston Ballet since 2014. He lives with his husband, John Ruggeri, and their two kids.

Lam’s favorite piece has been Robbins Glass Pieces main pas de deux, which he described as simple and expressive. Ruggeri, a lover of ballet as well, appreciates the work Lam puts into each dance.

“It’s knowing the history of dance, the history of the music and stories behind the dance, the history of prior dancers and choreographers,” Ruggeri said. “With that, John [Lam] then puts his own artistic stamp on the dance and its past, and it then lives on in the present, and for the future.”

This journey has not come without challenges. Lam has faced some severe injuries over the years, which Ruggeri says may have caused Lam to think about quitting dance. Above all, Lam continues to have a healthy mindset and focuses on dancing his best.

Lam’s Asian American heritage has had a big influence on both his personal and professional life. He enjoys cooking his mother’s Asian recipes alongside help from his kids, and will sometimes FaceTime his mother during the process.

“My heritage has shaped my work ethic in the studios,” Lam said, “having come from two hard working parents from Vietnam. A professional attitude in working hard and being persistent help shape my identity in the artist I am.”

As both an Asian American and LGBTQ dancer, Lam is breaking barriers. He hopes to inspire others from unique backgrounds to chase their dreams too.

“I came from nothing, came from parents that knew nothing about dance, had no real understanding about the LGBTQ community, yet I defied all the presumed boxed ideas of what an Asian American child should be and do,” Lam said. “I say, to all those that are questioning, to dig deep within your heart, to gather enough courage to go for your dreams, because with finding your true self, dreams do come true!”

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