In dance, we often remember the instructors that we look up to. The ones that we aspire to be, and the ones that give us opportunities. But amongst all these, we remember the teachers that were there for us every step of the journey. The ones that cheer us on and teach us to be grounded.
To honour all the teachers that made it possible for us to dream, this April, our DOTM will be Yi Wen! A teacher that selflessly encourage dancers to be themselves and comfortable on the stage, her unique teaching style and constant support are what stays with her students long after they left the introductory classes.
Check out one of her classes here:
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JAM-ed again tonight!! 😍😍😍 You all inspire me back so so much, and witnessing the growth of each of you is my greatest takeaway as an instructor.. Just want you to know that! 🙆🏻 . Happy Thursday!!! . . Hip Hop Intro Thursdays, 7pm @converge.studios . #convergesg #convergestudios #hiphopintro #intromediate? #justdance #jam #michaeljackson
Talk me through your dance journey. Who/What inspired you to begin dance?
I’ve always been interested in the way dancers move in Music Videos and their energy always adds life to music. I always tried to copy their moves and spent my free time sweating it out and just pretending to be a backup dancer all in the comfort of my own home. I remember getting all excited about this particular concert that my favourite dancer performed at, and that got me really inspired.
Back then I thought it was weird that my eyes were mostly set on the dancers instead of the artistes. I mean, who goes to concerts just to watch a backup dancer dance? So at 17 years old, I decided to pick up this hobby and stepped into my very first dance class.
Once I started, I never looked back. I get butterflies in my stomach before every class, and I became more inspired by each class. I was practically taking classes every single day. I was dancing every single day. It’s like an addiction and I never got tired and always wanted more. The instructors and dancers from the professional dance team were my idols. My idols were ordinary people who dance, and being able to learn from your very own idol is an indescribable feeling.
What kept you going?
I guess it’s the comfort it brings when I get to express my emotions without having to use words. Also the instructors, dancers, friends and students I’ve met along the way.
As a person, it is an outlet where I am able to express my introverted self and connect with the world. Other times I’m just awkward.
As a dancer, the people I shared the stage with, those I’ve stayed up all night at rehearsals with, dancers who have grown together with me, they’ve always been my inspiration.
As an instructor, witnessing the growth of my students, new faces who came back for their second and third classes, thank you texts I received after every class, they’ve become my biggest motivation.
Having a supportive family is also an advantage for me. Initially worried and reluctant, they’ve learnt to understand that being a dancer is nothing short of having a decent job filled with passion.
Any difficulties that you experienced dancing? And how did you overcome it?
There are a hundred and one difficulties/obstacles that I’ve probably experienced. Learning to perform in front of an audience is one.
The idea of having people watch you dance held me back a lot and I’ve struggled a pretty long time trying to overcome the thought of those eyes scrutinising every move I make. Then came the old saying, “Dance like nobody’s watching”. Some dancers are motivated by the attention and recognition from their audience, which in this case, “Dance like everybody’s watching” would probably be a more suitable phrase. But for myself, imagining an empty space with nobody around allows me freedom and solitude to enjoy the magic of movement and music.
Having been in the industry for a while now, what changes did you see in the KPOP dance scene then and now?
Well, the music has definitely evolved, which makes the KPOP dance scene more diverse and exciting. There are so many idol groups and such a huge variety of songs to choose from. I remember how people used to see KPOP dances as cheesy, boyband-ish kind of dances that weren’t “cool”, but with renowned choreographers from USA, New Zealand, Japan, and Korea now choreographing for KPOP idols, I think it has made a pretty big change in the way dancers view the KPOP dance scene.
How do you think KPOP dance will change in the future?
I think it’ll only get better! I like the fact that KPOP doesn’t limit you to a certain style. I can do Swag, Urban, Street Jazz, Girls’ Style, Hip Hop, Funk – you name it, they’ve got it. And ultimately it’s still just, KPOP. With MV dances having more intricate and challenging moves, become more competitive and standards will only get better.
What does dance mean to you?
Dance is joy, freedom, a kind of art where there is no right or wrong. An expression where every individual is similar, yet different in their own ways. A personality that defines you, that makes you special.
What influenced your decision to follow dance as a career?
I would say, having people who believed in me had the most influence on this decision.
I never actually thought I’d become a dancer/instructor myself. Most of these credits definitely had to go to my mentor, Bryan Lee. He was the man who recognised the potential in me, pushed and guided me all the way. With extra attention and advice from Bryan, I managed to grow pretty quickly. Observing him and how he manages his class helped me understand a lot on what it takes to be a good and inspiring instructor, and also an amazing dancer. And with careful grooming by two other mentors, Carol and Sheila, becoming an instructor and choreographer was a clear and straightforward path for me.
Any wise words that you keep in your heart when the going gets tough?
When the going gets tough, I will always remind myself of why I started dancing in the first place. Setbacks are aplenty, and it’s really easy to give up. I know for sure that even if I were to hold a different career right now, you’d still be able to see me grooving at an awkward little corner.
To all dancers that intend to take up dance as a career, any words of advice for them?
Stay open minded, stay humble, stay supportive of others. Taking up dance as a career means that there will always be a time for you to shine, and there will also be times when you have to help others shine. Being a dancer and being an instructor is actually two different paths to take. Competition may a good motivation, but be careful not to let it consume you.
Finally, any events in the upcoming months that we will be able to catch you at?
I’m currently teaching at Converge Studios.
Catch me at 7pm every Tuesday for some Hip Hop Basics, every Thursday for Hip Hop Intro, and Friday for KPOP Beginners!
Converge Studios will also be having events later on in the year so be sure to join us!
www.convergestudios.sg | @converge.studios
You can find her on Instagram to see more of her class videos as well!