Aside from dancing on stage, a dancer can also be identified through many other things like what they bring, what they wear and how they carry themselves! In this series, we will be sharing our takes on how to spot a dancer and “how” to be a dancer.
Now that we’ve gone through a series of what-to-dos, let’s wrap this up with Ritzel Pam – a 17 year old dancer – and she’s joined by her sister, Rachel (who doesn’t say much in this feature).
How did you get into dancing?
I started dancing in Primary 1 (7 years old).
I got into it because of my sister (Rachel). My mom saw that my sister had potential in dance after watching their simple kindergarten dance performance. At a young age she could catch the steps fast and she could move well. But for me, I was born with two left feet. So my mom decided to enrol Rachel in a dance class. I just followed because my Mom couldn’t leave me alone at home without supervision.
How did you go from two left feet to being a regular (and good) dancer?
I think one of the biggest factor is not giving up easily and practicing daily. Cause dance really requires a lot of practice. Even if you’re “naturally good” at it, you’ll still have to practice if you want to become better. And dance is something you can never be perfect at, you will always have something to work and you can always improve on what you can already do.
Personally, I think basics are really important because you need to have a good foundation in dance. In my dance club, our instructors also focus on our basics. Even at home, I like to practice my basics and use that as warm up before I start practicing my dance item or practicing freestyle. Freestyle helps me understand what kind of dancer or mover I am and how my body naturally moves to the music. It also helps me understand music better, improve my musicality and makes me push myself to the boundaries and explore what I can do with movement.
I’m not a good freestyler or a competitive freestyler but i still like to freestyle to explore and spark my creativity. Its also good to have a goal in mind. Like before i go for class, i always think of one thing to work on during the class. That helps a lot and it really makes you focus on what you want to improve on. It’ll help you improve faster too rather than just going to class without a goal in mind. I used to go to classes absent mindedly.
What’s your go-to genre?
I started off with Hip Hop – that’s my main genre.
As I grew older, I wanted to explore the different genres available. I’ve been to Dance Hall classes, Street Dance classes, and Urban.
Where do you go for classes?
I started in this studio called Dance Factory – they offer courses. But I quit during my ‘O’ levels year to focus on my studies and exams.
How was your Open Class experience?
Usually would I go alone. It’s something I’ve done ever since secondary school because I don’t know anyone else in the dance scene. I would like to bring my sister but she doesn’t dance anymore.
Open classes are intimidating at first especially since you don’t know anyone. But I got used to it and I don’t usually talk to anyone – I go there, I learn, I leave.
The people are not rude, but they’re not outwardly friendly. No one randomly goes up to anyone to make friends. There’s a few people who go in groups, but there’s also quite a number of people who go alone too. Sometimes they go there alone and happen to see someone they know – usually these people knew each other from previous recitals.
Did you join any recitals this year?
No. I’m currently in TPDE and our schedule is quite busy so I’m trying not to pack my own schedule too much.
What was it like dancing with your sister?
I like dancing with her because that means I know someone in class… but I don’t exactly remember what it’s like to dance with her anymore since it’s been a while.
Rachel added, “It was fun. But she can get moody at times. When we were in a crew in Dance Factory (DFS), I loved disturbing her during formations – but she didn’t like it.”
How is it now that your sister stopped joining you for classes?
She stopped joining me after I took a break for ‘O’ levels. What I mean is that when I went back to dance after my exams, she stopped joining due to her other commitments being part of our church band and just lost her passion to dance. Also because she got sick easily during that period and thought that she’d rather conserve her energy.
I did a lot more open classes and it was very intimidating. I personally think it will be more fun and less intimidating if you go with someone you know.
How do you make friends?
I don’t make friends.
But there was one time when a guy, who stood next to me, talked to me. He was also alone and was unusually friendly. I didn’t expect anyone to just go up to me. He asked for my race – Filipino? Malay? Chinese? – because he said he couldn’t tell. I told him I was mixed…. German and something Asian.
I just thought it was funny… I never told him the truth in the end. (I’m pure Filipino, in case you’re wondering.)
Do you find it important to make friends in dance classes?
For me, I don’t think it’s important to make friends in open classes because you constantly see different people all the time. In open classes the people are always changing. But I think it’s important to give good vibes and energy during class because it makes the class much more fun and it’ll make you want to go back for more. I think the instructor will also appreciate it and enjoy teaching a class like that! It’s a little bit of give and take.
If you take courses, then I think it’s important to make friends because you’ll see them weekly. It’s good to warm up and open up to them because your classes will be more enjoyable and it will be easier for you to invite them next time you want some company for an open class.
It’s the same thing with recitals. It’s important to make friends because you’re performing with them so you want to have that chemistry and connection. The feeling is very different when you perform with someone you’re not close to versus people that you’re close to.
For example, we had a Freshie competition for TPDE. The hiphop genre was split into two groups. My group felt uncomfortable with each other initially, but we got very close towards the end. So when we danced on stage, people saw that. The vetters even commented how hey could “feel the togetherness” during their vetting session.
The chemistry and connection the dance team has will make people want to watch the dance item more.
Are you the type who easily makes friends?
No. When I joined a course in Dance Factory, I only opened up to the other dancers close to the day I was going to quit. The preparation for concerts usually help trigger that change because we’re usually just in one room the whole day. But maybe I wasn’t that close to them because of the age difference – I was the youngest while the rest of the dancers in the advance class were in their 20s.
When I danced on stage back then, I danced for myself. Which was different now with my TPDE group because when I dance with them, I dance my heart out. We feed off each other’s passion and energy.
Any tips on making friends (or something that you’d want to try out yourself)?
You need to make the first move (and it’s not the norm). If you don’t make the first move, no one’s going to make the first move.
Approach someone who also came alone.
I’m using Samsung, so I don’t have airdrop for them to pass me the video. So that’s one way I network. When you exchange numbers to get the dance video, just strike a conversation. It has to be both ways because there was one time quite a while back when I gave a girl my number… and she hasn’t sent the video to me until now.
Also, usually when people take videos, they will post it on their instagram. One time I was searching for a specific video and I just search the tagged location (the studio name) and striked up a conversation with the dancer to get a copy of the video.
Rachel added, “Or you accidentally hit them and go ‘oh sorry, hi!’”
(Video courtesy of Ritzel.)
Unable to view the video? Request to follow Ritzel in her Instagram account or watch below!