Meet Mentor Candy Tong & Mentee Grace Phillips Shirley

There's a reason why there are so many articles on the internet about "How to Find a Mentor" or "How to Create a Great Mentorship Program". It's not easy! There are so many factors that go into play like personality, age, experience, education, physical location etc. 

The PointePeople Mentorship program strives to create fantastic bonds between current professional dancers and young, aspiring artists. 

Read our interview below between these two incredible dancers and learn more about their experience as Mentor & Mentee.

candy tong and grace phillips

Photo Credit: Al Ponce Photography

MentorCandy Tong, Dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Mentee: Grace Phillips Shirley, SLO Movement Arts Center

Were you able to meet up with your each other? If so, describe that experience! 

Candy: Yes!! We were able to meet in my hometown of San Francisco as well as set up a photoshoot together. It was amazing to meet Grace and to spend a few hours with her. It made the experience 10x more special, and I highly recommend that the future mentor/mentees do the same. It creates a more realistic mentorship!

Grace: Yes! We met in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel for a photo shoot with Al Ponce Photography. We spent a few hours together and really had a great visit. We got some great photos together, and she also brought me a lovely present. I enjoyed hearing about her season with Complexions Ballet, her training at SF Ballet, and the many places dance has taken her. We also had a teacher in common!

grace phillips ballet and candy tong ballet


Photo Credit: Al Ponce Photography


What were some aspects you were able to learn from one another?

Candy: I learned quickly from Grace that these young girls and the younger generation are way more knowledgeable about every part of the dance world than I or my generation was at their age. It’s amazing to see someone who is in their teens use all the resources they have, such as social media, to their advantage. (SO LUCKY.)

Grace: I have learned to enjoy the process, that there is a spot for everyone, and to work hard.


grace phillips shirley ballet

Photo Credit: Al Ponce Photography

What topics were you able to share and discuss together?

Candy: I made it clear to Grace that I would be an open book for her. One thing I learned from my teachers/mentors is that it is important to share the gifts and talents people were able to pass down to you. I shared a lot of my life experiences (IN DEPTH) about challenges, triumphs, failures, and of course accomplishments as a dancer. Not very many people are willing to talk about their rejections and how many times they failed because many don’t want to seem inferior. It is important for young dancers to know that there isn’t one easy path to become successful in this career.

Grace: Coming back from an injury, dealing with hyper-mobility, and how to take my training from a home studio to the next level.

candy tong complexions ballet

Photo Credit: Al Ponce Photography

As a mentor, how did this program help you connect with a younger generation of dancers? 

Candy: I’ve always loved giving back to younger dancers, so this was something that made me extra content. It was great being able to connect with Grace, who is in the new, competitive and ever-so-talented young generation of dancers. I learned a lot from her and what the dance scene is like around her age.

As a mentee, how did the mentorship program enhance your life as a dancer? Best piece of advice or inspiration you received from your mentor?

Grace: I know that the dance world can be small, but meeting Ms. Tong on a more personal level was not only amazing but inspirational. She is/was super supportive, and we had so many things in common. It was truly a great experience.  I was able to learn from my mentor how it is as equally important to have a plan as it is to take opportunities as they come and be able to go with the flow.

grace phillips ballet pointepeople mentorship program

Photo Credit: Al Ponce Photography

As participants in the PointePeople mentorship program, the dancers were also able to test various colors and shades of Pointe Paint.

What features did you like about Pointe Paint?

Candy: I love how quick and easy it is to put on!

Grace: I love how easy it is to use and how easy it can cover the shoes. (And the clean up is a snap.)

Benefits of Pointe Paint versus conventional pointe shoe dye? 

Candy: I’ve never used a dye actually! I’ve always used foundation. With Pointe Paint, it’s definitely 100x quicker and less messy.


Did you use Pointe Paint for a specific role or just experiment with it?

Candy: I used it as an experiment as well as for a photoshoot.

Grace: I used the colored paint for several photo shoots, and I used the Chai Pointe Paint for stage.

Favorite shade or color of Pointe Paint?

Candy: INDIGO!!!!!! 

Grace: Victoria Paige Red, Rajani (Black), and Orchid are my faves!

Which color would you love to try next?

Candy: RED.

Grace: Another nude color and the Aqua color.

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