An old piece (published back in.. 2013 maybe?) which was previously written for Dance Lah.
Dee* had been dancing even before she met her ex-boyfriend, Ivan*. They were acquainted with each other in secondary school but only started speaking to each other in junior college.
“I always caught glimpses of him along with my class corridor in secondary school,” she said.
“I didn’t think much of him. He used to hang out with a bunch of Ah Bengs and he liked to wear his pants loose and low. One tug and I’m sure they would have fallen to the floor. He seemed to be playing basketball every day after school,” Dee disclosed.
She explained that she could observe all of this because the dance studio was right next to the basketball court.
Somehow, the two of them ended up in the same junior college where they joined the same Orientation Group. Sparks flew between them and the rest was history.
The disagreements started then. Ivan was unhappy with the amount of time Dee spent dancing.
“He kept saying that I put dance before him and that dance is more important than him. How could I have rationalised things with him? Dance and him were really two different things. If you took dance out of the picture, we would have been a perfectly happy couple.”
Ivan also disliked Dee doing partner work in dance or dancing in items with revealing costumes.
“Basically, anything that revealed my cleavage or midriff; any skirt shorter than mid-thigh and above were no-nos. I had to find creative ways around costumes to appease him. For example, I’ll wear nude stockings if I had to wear shorts, ” Dee explained.
Fast forward to university.
“If you had danced in junior college and in university, I think you would have known that these are two very different environments. Dance back in my junior college was contemporary, where costumes were mandated “safe”. You spend less time on dance because the ‘A’ Levels came first.
In varsity, I think dancers are afforded more freedom. University dance groups put on dance concerts frequently with each dancer taking on multiple items. That means you spend more time at rehearsals. I remember for a particular concert, I had rehearsals five days a week. The other two days were spent catching up on school work. Whatever time that was left over, went to dates.”
During their relationship, she set her Facebook profile to review tags so that she could filter out the photos and videos that Ivan would have picked arguments over. She had to inform her friends ahead of time to ensure that they did not upload photos or videos of her doing partner work.
“Sometimes, I would pretend that I was too busy doing hair and make-up so that I wouldn’t have to take pictures backstage. Even if there was an item that I really wanted to do, I’ll automatically opt out of it if I knew that the costumes were going to be problematic. It was just less tiring that way, ” she added.
Performing in concerts is supposed to be a happy thing, right?
“I’m the happiest during concert-time. When people write notes post-concert lamenting about how much they miss the show moments, I spend my post-concert time doing damage control. Even though I would have loved to have him watch my concerts but the idea of having to deal with him post-concert stressed me out, ” Dee sighed.
Eventually, they broke up because of other reasons.
It was a tiring and tumultuous relationship. Ivan always made Dee felt like the smaller and more selfish person.
“He was constantly guilt-tripping me because he claimed that I prioritised dance over him. It made the relationship tenser and we argued over the smallest things. I never had the courage to tell him that I hated the things that he made me do.
Remember in algebra, your maths teacher would have taught you that pears and apples are different units and cannot be used in the same form? The same way, dance and your boyfriend are two different things and cannot be compared.”
Dee’s last words:
“Don’t give up. One day you will find the perfect soulmate who loves everything about you and everything that you do. Someone who will love you for being a dancer, and who appreciates dance itself. But until then, know that dance will always be there for you and will never give up on you.”
*All names have been changed.
Illustrations by my sister.