We often hear insights from veteran and respected dancers in the scene. But as the dance scene grows bigger and more competitive, more often than not, we have to listen to the voices of the younger generation, the generation that will bring us into the future.
For the month of March, we will be chatting with Wein, an EV dance instructor and member of Limited Edition dance crew! From choreographing items for school performances to representing Singapore at the ARENA Urban Dance Competition 2017 in China, he is one of many emerging instructors paving the way for Singapore’s recognition in the global dance industry.
Check out his latest class here:
Talk me through your dance journey. Who/What inspired you to begin dance?
“I first got introduced to dance during my Secondary School days at Anglo Chinese School (Barker Road), which was one of the CCA options that were available. As surprising as it sounds, my primary choice of CCA was actually Badminton. Back then the only reason I signed up for dance was that the senior dancers in the team demonstrated really cool break-dancing moves and it attracted many of us. After the CCA trials, I wasn’t good enough for the school Badminton team and thus I ended up in the Dance CCA.
The year that I joined was coincidentally the year that the biennial Singapore Youth Festival was held and all the newcomers were cast in the performance due to a shortage of members. I feel that the only reason I was convinced to stay in dance was that some of my closest friends were in too. After a while, as we got to know our seniors, they were the first few dancers that inspired me to be a dancer and even up till now they are still one of my inspirations. Most of them are responsible for the expansion of the break-dance scene in Singapore. One of them, Gerald Chan, is even an internationally known breakdancer. Following that, we had a change of instructors and that was when I was first introduced to the person that would pave the way for my dance career as it is now – JJ.”
What kept you going?
“I think the biggest factor that has kept me going is really the support from friends and family. I am blessed to have a family who supports me pursuing dance, be it competing, performing or teaching. They would always be at all of my performances or competitions. One time back in 2017, I was part of the team Limited Edition SG that clinched the champion title at ARENA Urban Dance Competition and I earned the chance to fly to Cheng Du, China, to represent Singapore. My parents bought their own flight tickets and followed me along to China to support my team and I. Their encouragements and support play the biggest part as to why I am able to keep going despite all the setbacks. I am also really thankful to have amazing friends who always support me in my journey and offer wise advice to motivate and guide me. These are what has kept me going for the past few years.”
Any difficulties that you experienced dancing? And how did you overcome it?
“My dance journey currently is in its 9th year and over such a long period of time, there has definitely been plenty of difficulties and setbacks. Ranging from physical injuries – which are abundant – to failed ventures into public classes and simply just being a newcomer to the scene.
Starting out as a break dancer, as I was a scrawny, small kid last time, I didn’t have the physical ability to execute the tricks fully which eventually led to many sprains and one dislocation in my first few years. I’m always pushing to outdo myself each time and sometimes it leads to even more injuries. Currently, I have three slip discs.
Whichever line of work you enter, as a newcomer, everything is always harder due to recognition, experience and many other factors. Even if you earn opportunities and platforms to put yourself out in the scene, if nobody knows you, you are not going to go anywhere. I’ve had many public classes that had only one or two people turning up and sometimes none. And in the first place, being a fresh face, opportunities like having your own public class, dancing for shows or choreographing for shows are hard to come by.
Overcoming all this is not easy as the physical pain is very real and it is very demoralizing to have very little support from the scene but as much as dance is physical, it is as much a mental game as well. You have to keep yourself strong mentally and always have an optimistic outlook. Once you’ve given up in your mind, there’s no coming back from it. If you’ve not given up, there will always be something that can be done to work things around. Keep trying again and again, and one day it will pay off.”
Having been in the industry for a while now, what changes did you see in the hip-hop/urban dance scene then and now?
“From what I have observed over the years, I feel that the scene has grown in many areas. The biggest being the exposure that it is getting from mainstream media and recognition that dancers are getting for their efforts.
One example of what I mentioned above is as simple as if you ask anyone, be it a new dancer or non-dancer if they knew any dance group. I would confidently say that if you compare the answers now to last time, more people would say they know at least one group now. Recently with the emergence of cultures like K-pop, talent contest shows such as World Of Dance and music videos that include intricate choreography, dance has been mixed into the media and achieved publicity through there. Now hip-hop and urban choreographers are more sought after to be featured and to contribute their creative ideas, which in turn increases the publicity of the hip-hop and urban dance scene.
“Another change I have seen is the competitiveness of dancers and the creativeness that it produces.”
In an industry where originality is everything, it has come down to who comes up with the most impressive never-seen-before stunt, concept or combination of moves that usually trumps the field. With more and more people entering the scene, it is only bound to get more and more competitive and that will push the creativity level to new heights.”
How do you think dance will change in the future?
“In my opinion, I think dance will start to have a bigger impact on the education aspect. As of now, dance is already incorporated into education. There are school programmes and enrichment classes that educate students on dance and its culture. Remembering back to when I was in school, I never had any dance programmes apart from my CCA. This shows that dance is slowly being infused into regular curriculum as an aesthetic or as a part of music.
How the scene will change, it is almost impossible to predict. The only thing we know for sure is that it will change as it is still growing and we have to adapt.”
What does dance mean to you?
“To me, dance is primarily an outlet to express myself and release tension. Through dance, I also try to spread a message that I believe is important, and that is aesthetic skills and even sports skills are as important as education.”
What influenced your decision to follow dance as a career?
“During my first few years of dance, I was fortunate enough to earn opportunities to guide and lead other dancers and it gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that I was able to help people and impact some through something I enjoyed doing. Growing up, I always had the mentality that I should pursue or make a living out of something I enjoyed doing rather than chasing something that provided a living but I was not interested in. If you like what you do, you’ll willingly put in the effort which returns to growth and most importantly joy and meaning.”
Any wise words that you keep in your heart when the going gets tough?
“Whenever something bad happens, I notice that the first thing I would say in my head is “could be worse”. Even though something bad is happening right now, it could have been 10 times worse or 100 times worse and that would calm me down a little bit. Subsequently, I always remember that a tough time always produces many lessons and experiences that will benefit me in the future. Through this experience, I would come out stronger and more knowledgeable about what to do and what not to do.”
To all dancers that intend to take up dance as a career, any words of advice for them?
“Dance as a career doesn’t just rely on how well you dance. It is how you are as a person, your attitude, your values, how resilient you are in the face of setbacks, how disciplined you are to keep training in spite of a busy schedule and most importantly how confident you are of your own craft. One more advice I can give is never let your ego get the better of you. Accept criticism – positive ones and negative ones as well. Even though something is brought across negatively, it does not mean it is not true. Always reflect and keep yourself in check.”
Finally, any events in the upcoming months that we will be able to catch you at?
“Currently I teach Urban Intermediate classes at EV Dance Studio on Monday’s 8-9pm. EV Dance Studio is also having a March Holiday Dance workshop programme where I will be holding an Urban dance workshop on 15th March 4-5.30pm!”