I have delayed this post for as long as I thought was appropriate for delaying since it seems to be in the spirit of bragging what is precisely the unbraggable – my dance experience (?) (so many people call it journey but mine is wayyyyyy too short for me to merit it with that term).
So anyway, I thought I would write this post for anyone out there who:
- Really want to start dance but have no idea how to start
- Believe you can never dance but really want to move with the sleekness of BTS, Kyle Hanagami etc etc
- Always let your fear crippled you so far (like I did).
Just to clarify, I am not proclaiming myself as an experienced dancer nor am I saying that I am qualified to give any kind of professional advice on how you should go about doing it; what I will be doing is to document everything I can remember I went through and maybe when I am 80 years old and read this I will be like, HOHOHO I did out of my comfort zone once in my life!
No Dance Background
Perhaps the most intimidating idea to me in beginning dance is the fact that I had absolutely no dance background. Yep. Not even those basic ballet class for toddlers between 3-5 or the likes. If you want to force it, secondary school implemented mandatory Chinese dance once a week but I honestly didn’t like it nor did I try, so it was more of shuffling around for that hour till it ended.
I remember before the most recent commitment to dance, I had once tried a Kpop dance class in Dance Factory at Jurong East in August 2015. It was a bad experience because the class was learning a continued choreo for Big Bang’s Bang Bang Bang, and the session I went was the last day. I couldn’t catch the choreo at all. It was downright, lowkey embarrassing at the very least. I felt humiliated even though I later learned that this is actually normal. What was I expecting? Immediately slaying the dance when I have never moved this stiff body before? Hell, in moments of panic I can barely differentiate my left and right side!
I had no background in both dance and music (and the latter will come to haunt me later on, as you will see), and I gave up on the idea of dance after that fateful class in 2015.
Until the December of 2016.
Trying Dance Again…with a personal instructor
In November 2016 I was on vacation in Shanghai and I thought to myself one random night…what would my greatest regret be when I am 80 years old, crippled and confined to a wheelchair? I thought about the fact that I never learnt to move my body properly. So I did something quite profoundly dumb: I searched on carousell for personal dance teachers, and the most affordable one was $8 an hour if I travelled to Scape, or $12 an hour if she came to you. I picked for her to meet me at NUS where we used the glass mirror for the next couple of weeks. I came back from my vacation and we started.
Boy was I terrible.
I had no basic coordination to speak of – my movements were rigid and stiff, and I could not remember past 1 eight of routine EVEN WHEN it was repetitive. Looking bad on it, I realized my only source of optimism might be the fact that doing it makes me lose a hell lot of weight. I was supposed to have dance daily, but I found my personal dance teacher rather irresponsible given that she would cancel class almost daily for 4 days in a row citing various reasons. Once when I was already leaving my house, she messaged to say that she hurt herself and I had to double back home. Another time she messaged to say that she overslept and would be a few hours late…which led to my choice to cancel. The number of problems coupled with my already waning confidence made me like dance less and less then.
So I kind of gave up on dance again…
CFA (Center for the Arts) Hip Hop Course
It has come to my notice only of late that this is a greatly unpopular course conducted by CFA NUS, and yep I took it in 2016 with Ken. Ken is fabulous because even though he mains in Funk and has no interest in hip hop at all, he did it just so I won’t freak out going alone.
The course was taught by Ash Ali and his student Venus – both are amazing dancers and I believe that I would have learned more if not for the fact that I was always condemning myself in my head during the class. I will feel locked down in my body, being completely unable to execute even the most basic of steps as I seethed in frustration and humiliation.
At that point of time I disliked the entire course because I felt it was too advanced for me (I had to take beginner instead of intro since the latter clashed with my class timetable). I felt inferior and full of displeasure…but never really doing anything to help myself improve. Basically, I was a bitter grouching ball of dissatisfaction who never tried to change her own situation.
The course ended in late March and I gave up on dance, thinking I will never do it again in my life since I was such a nightmare…
Until July 2017.
Restarting All Over
It is funny because what inspired me to try again was my MOE training whereby they talked about “growth mindset” and “set mindset”. Growth mindset means believing that anything can be changed with the right effort, guidance and that you will improve. I realized all this time when I had tried dance I had secretly never believed in improvement: I condemned myself thinking that “I can’t dance”. With this change of mindset, I told myself I would not give up this time. I would stick to a strict schedule and go for classes at the dance studios.
That day was 21st July 2017.
So the studio that I started with is Converge Studios (at Tanjong Pagar/ Cityhall), then I also started attending Oschool at Scape, and Beatfactory also at Tanjong Pagar. Contrary to what I thought, there are so many studios with various prices and different styles and difficulties. I will review them in the next post so that you know which one is better suited for you.
Anyway, this time I decided I did not want to continue with Hip Hop since I had problems with my rhythm and beats as well as coordination. Instead I changed over to street jazz/ jazz funk whereby there are less things requiring me to be bouncing on every beat and more of attitude and sass.
In fact, I would recommend all who are new to dance to make street jazz your first genre – you will be exposed to not just jazz, but also hip hop (in acceptable amounts, hehe), contemporary and even waack and lock sometimes. It is a fusion category that will facilitate your transition into the exciting world of dance. What’s more Street Jazz demanded a lot of confidence and sass that I could not muster easily: so having made my skin thick enough to do it meant that your thick skin will enable you to go far in other genres.
Keeping the Practice
In the first two weeks when I restarted dance, I went for dance classes 3 times a week and did body isolation and redid moves that I had trouble during the class at home. For instance a classic street jazz plie with a knee pop (ok there is no standard name for it, so make of it what you will). My body was still really stiff, and now sore, from the practices but I told myself that I didn’t care about looking bad, and much less about the pains.
I felt that I wasn’t improving as much as I would like, so I pushed my practice time to about 7-10 hours a week, engaging in back to back classes which really killed me since my form was pretty poor. So was my stamina. I can still remember Ben Chia’s Pon De Replay choreography which, albeit not difficult, was so fast that I felt like I had run a marathon when the class finished. It was sheer exhaustion but also, sheer happiness knowing that I am pushing on.
Slowly, I began to see twinkles of improvement, such as doing moves more nicely, or remembering a bit more of the routine than I did when I just started. Till this point when I am writing this entry, I still find routine remembrance the hardest for myself because I have the propensity to panic and my mind just goes blank. But I was definitely definitely much much better when I started…since I can only remember the first two moves then and nothing else HAHA.
Joining NUS Jazztitude
Auditions for NUS Street Jazz crew called Jazztitude was opened in late August, around 5-6 weeks after my intense self practice and trainings. Till today I can’t believe I dared to hope to get in but I actually did it! It was a magical moment when I realized that my dream of dancing more came true: I however believe that it was not on any accounts of my dance excellence that I got my position in crew, but perhaps a nod towards my efforts and dedication? I signed up for both the semester classes, one taught by Bryan Lee from OSchool and the other one by Poca Xie from Converge/ Recognize Studios. Bryan’s style was more to my liking and simply amazing. Poca’s one was equally awesome, but tend to be a lot faster and less intuitive to my limbs ( I account that to my own noobness).
We have crew training every Thursday and I find crew trainings to be enriching be extremely extremely stressful. Partly because the instructors came with an expectation that everyone has some degree of experience in dance so instead of the usual 4-6 eights (that are also relatively well paced), to perhaps 8 eights with moves even in the half counts, which meant that we learnt more than the supposed 8 eights. My brain was saturated like how the tiny CAC studio was saturated with crew members. The room was small with barely enough space to move. I’m usually flushed to a corner against the wall, but I am not complaining since 1. I am still happy to be in crew 2. any other position is just as bad given the cramped conditions.
Some trainings are better for me than others, but usually I don’t do well during crew trainings. We were taught by Wei Zong, Bryan, Hazri, Choon Hui (I am still sad that we don’t have Zelia, she is amaze-balls). Usually if I look halfway decent during the choreos, I am pretty happy already. Also, I realized Hazri’s choreos are the more difficult ones to me BUT I STILL LOVE IT. His dance is really sassy and I shall make it a point for me to go to his Converge class some day.
Onward to December 2017
We are preparing for CACTUS performance in February 2018 now and I am still happy and grateful that I have the opportunity to be part of the amazing crew that I once watched in 2017! I realize that however little, I have still made improvements when I watch my own videos and that makes me really really happy hehe.
Okie, I realized I haven’t talked much about the technical aspects like which studios to go, and how much you should train since I am dealing with the emotional aspects (which was more of the issue for myself) and I promise to do that in the next post!