The Embassy of Belgium in the United States of America shared information about the significance of Dance and how it is great for the mind, body, and soul.
They took to their official social media account and noted dancing is great for the mind, body as well as the soul. “We are even more convinced after listening to the fascinating life story of centenarian ballet dancer Solang MacLean.”
Along with this, the Embassy colleagues Gwenda and Anne-Marie (Mieke) were thrilled to catch up with her at her home in Northern Virginia during a belated birthday celebration. Although she spent most of her life in China and the United States, Solange always kept her Belgian nationality and remained Belgian at heart.
Solange MacLean (her full birth name is Solange Jacqueline de Saint Hubert) was born in Chenchow, China, on February 1, 1922, to Belgian parents. Her father worked for infrastructure financing companies in this vast country. Jacqueline’s childhood included learning several languages, as well as studies in singing, piano, painting, and extensive training in ballet.
In 1941, Japan attacked the US in Pearl Harbor, which brought the US into the war and resulted in Japan going to war with several European countries. This changed the course of Solange’s family life overnight. Her family, as well as many other civilians of Allied countries, were confined and, shortly after that, evacuated to internment camps.
The Weihsien Camp was the largest Japanese camp for civilians of Allied countries in northern China, where over 2,200 people were interned, including 350 children. Solange has many stories to share about the hardships during these years, but also stories of hope.
Once the Americans liberated the Camp in August 1945, Solange and her parents spent several more months in Teinsien (now Tianjin), waiting to be allowed passage out of China and return to Belgium. In addition to being an accomplished dancer, Solange had a beautiful singing voice and was often invited to post-war celebrations. During this time, she met William MacLean, a US Marine, who would many years later become her loving husband of 54 years.
Right after the end of WWII, Solange studied music and singing at the Conservatoire Royal in Brussels. Solange married Jeffrey Binda, another US Marine, in his late forties and moved to America to start a new life. Solange taught ballet and French. The couple had two children, but their marriage didn’t last.
Finding herself a divorced single mom, she continued to find strength and resilience in her dancing and started her own dance school, the Ballet Academy of Northern Virginia. The rest is a magnificent story of self-reliance, dedication, and hard work. Solange has taught thousands of dance students between the first classes at the Kilmer School and her founding and directing her ballet school for over 70 years.
To this day, at 100 years old, she still teaches a weekly ballet class on Zoom.
Moreover, the Embassy of Belgium in the United States of America highlighted, “We thank Solange and her daughter Carinne (also a ballet dancer) for the warm welcome and for sharing so many unique memories and photos with us.”