I was one of those early starters. I remember peeking through the louvres of my primary school hall’s sliding doors, admiring at the dancers’… long hair. I was fascinated at possibility of having swishy long hair I can whip around.
Yes, I started dance so I could have long hair. And so it began, the start of my Chinese Dance Thursdays because trainings had always been on Thursdays.
I remember the first day at dance was a very painful experience. My mother bought me the standard uniform (of a pink leotard and short blue tights) and reminded me to listen to the teacher. I thought it would be fun. Maybe, we would get to prance around pretending to be fairies and killing monsters. Or we’d go on tippy toes and catch butterflies.
Instead, my first lesson was spent on learning the basics such as: the famed 莲花手(loosely translated to lotus hand which is the basic hand hold of Chinese dance) and how to flex/point your feet. Then, the horror came – stretching. .. Just imagine the NAPFA sit and reach test in your mind. That was what it was like. The instructor was sitting on the top of my back and there was no way to wriggle out.
Breathe in, breathe out. Push the pain to the back of your mind.
That was one of the most painful stretches for me because I wasn’t flexible that way. But the stretching also primed me to be able to take a lot of pain. Those were the times when lessons weren’t made to be fun. Unlike now, when you check out kids’ dance curriculum, they’re all about having fun and inculcating the love for dance.
I stuck by Chinese dance for years somehow. Many of my classmates laughed at the gaudy make up /costumes and I had to make time for extra dance examination drilling and SYF (Singapore Youth Festival) training. I had extra dance training on Sunday mornings at 9am which were 1.5 hours away from my home. Chinese dance in primary school was also tolerable because of my two other good friends. The love-hate relationship with dance veered towards hate more than love. On many occasions, I wanted to quit but my mother was adamant that I persevere for as long as I can.
Secondary school came, Chinese dance then became a burden to my (somewhat) hectic social life and seemed uncool to teenagers who just wanted to hang out at Parkway Parade, wandering through the shops. Couple that with endless band practices (my CCA at that time), and trying to pass Maths, it felt almost unbearable. I finally made the decision to call it quits when I was 13 or 14 and only picked dance back up seriously (not Chinese dance) when I was in my late teens/early twenties.
Upon reflection, I think I enjoyed doing the numerous shows (performing is the fun part right?) but the examinations were painful.
I am thankful for the flexibility Chinese dance imbued in me which turned out to be a blessing during Jazz and contemporary classes (kinda). Memorising numerous short routines for each dance examination expanded my brain’s memory bank for choreography. Chinese dance also taught similar techniques to Jazz such as 大跳 (big jump) which would be the equivalent of a jete and 平转 (turn) which formed the basis of chaines. I was blessed to have so many different learning opportunities.
Going for the many lessons also taught me discipline and independence. I had to learn to manage my own time and schedule since I was the one who wanted to learn dance, I had to be responsible for myself. This means prepping dance gear and arranging for transport (my grandma used to drive me home or I’ll take the public bus myself) cos my mama ain’t got time for that yo.
And yes, I started taking the public bus home myself at age 8.
Did I regret stopping Chinese dance? Yes and no. Yes, because I could have stuck by it and gone so much further. No, because I wouldn’t have left my comfort zone and started really enjoying and loving dance like how I do now.
Eh maybe I wouldn’t be in NUS Dance Blast! but join Chinese Dance instead?
If I could have made a choice, somehow, I don’t think I would have chosen to lose my virginity (in dance, you dirty minded people) in any other way.
Thank you to the Tay family for teaching my first steps in Chinese Dance!