I wrote this for the facebook page of Celestar School of Performing Arts. (Original link click here.. Thanks to my teacher Celeste for putting this up!). Had it ready in an hour or so. Gotta say it’s one of the quickest post I’ve written, yet most sincere.
I tell people that I am trained in ballet and American jazz, and did contemporary, Kathak (one of the 9 classical Indian dances) and African People’s Dance, but I can’t actually remember how my affair with dance started because I do have a very bad memory and most important of all, “dance is me”. Don’t get me wrong though, it is not that I am a professional dancer or I have no other interests besides dance. But everything I do now, I owe it to this extraordinary art form. My first dance class, after a long period of no-dance, never fails to make me feel like I am finally home again and finally found myself again.
When I was young, there was no shortage of extra-curricular classes out of school – ballet, piano, drawing, maths etc. By the time I was 17, the only “subject” left was ballet (RAD syllabus), and on top of that, I was the president of dance society in high school and participant of an outreach project organised by a HK-based Malaysian choreographer. My weekly dosage of dance must be around 19 hours.
After graduating from high school, I obediently chose to do a conventional degree and filled my life with art and design, and the occasional gym sessions. No dance. It must have felt like the end of me because a few months later, I said goodbye to college and turned up at the studio of Celestar Studio of Performing Arts where I told Celeste, “I am applying to do a dance degree in the UK and I have a year to train seriously before this degree starts. Also, I am not planning to be a performer.”
And so my weekly dosage of dance was now 35 hours (I think?!). I am and will always be thankful for this one year where I was closest to dance because of the things I learnt.
I learnt that being disciplined brings you right to the end without you even realising the tough times along the way. I learnt that being able to control the body is one of the most precious abilities a human could have because “taking action” is what really matters. I learnt that it is not all about being in control – being able to relax, let go and just trust yourself often bring the best results. I learnt the importance of being focused on the right things without losing awareness of the environment and voices around. I learnt that you are a star not when you are the best amongst the crowd, but when you are the most confident with yourself (knowing you are the best you can be).
Honestly, I did not sit around writing up this list in that year. I just rushed from dance classes to dance classes. I just practised. I just listened to the music and kept practising. I just tried to continue dancing when all I thought I could do was collapse from tiredness. I just danced, and had a not-so-glorious Level 4 graduation concert (pointe shoes fell off during the performance, anyone?) a few weeks before I came to the UK for university.
And the rest came and went. I didn’t dance a lot on this degree but I did pass the CSoPA’s Level 5 exam over a summer break (still wonder how I managed that). I did a management-based placement year at Dance UK (an advocacy organisation for dance in the UK). I graduated with a first class in BA (Hons) Dance and Culture. My first and also current job is at Akram Khan Company, working for one of the most inspiring choreographers and most amazing dance producers. Many of my other adventures had had something to do with dance: be it going to the USA to work at a summer performing arts camp and then did my first solo travelling after; be it visiting Uganda and be totally inspired by the amazing Breakdance Project Uganda (BPU) project; etc.
Dance is rawest form of expression therefore the most powerful and empowering art form or even form of communication. Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui had beautifully put my thoughts in his message for International Dance Day this year (http://www.international-dance-day.org/en/index.html). My journey in dance is not stopping there even though working in dance management does mean that I get to do everything related to dance but dance a lot myself. Sad case, but as I said, it is impossible for me to not have dance – even if I lost everything, everyone, I still have my body and I can dance and be at home; if I lost my body then my mind shall continue to dance – and so be it.