As our holidays (and deadlines) approach, we got to give it up to the dancers that passion never falters. A cross-border dancer that is active in both the Indonesian and Singapore dance scene, Fellix Utama is a ball of passion that is genuine and not afraid to discuss his own fears and how he overcomes them. Read on to find out more!
Before we plunge into his journey, Fellix has something to say:
“Just would like to thank everyone firstly for the support. This year I was given two huge opportunities. One was to dance for an Indonesian artist, Bunga Citra Lestari (BCL) for the closing ceremony of ASIAN GAMES 2018. The other one was to choreograph for an Indonesia’s mega-influencer/singer Salshabilla for her new single ‘Jangan Pergi’ for Youtube Fanfest Jakarta 2018’. Thank you, God.”
You can check out his dancing here:
Who/what inspired you to begin dance?
“Growing up, I remember I was just a fat, weird and anti-social kid (lol). I definitely faced problems communicating with my friends at an early age. I’m not sure why but I kind of had an issue with self-esteem when I was younger and always felt that I’m less qualified than everyone around me. I have always felt the need to ‘please’ people just so I can make a connection with them.
I remember as early as at the age of around five years old – you know at the age where u can already have a slight understanding or consciousness – I was hooked to the TV all the time just watching celebrities, music videos (back then on MTV) and live performances. They were so cool, so passionate and so engaging. Watching these people on stage where they are just living their dream that millions of people can relate, I was inspired by that energy to be like them, their genuine and authentic selves which were the main reason why the audience loved them. I vividly remember watching NSYNC and Michael Jackson back then on TV. This opened my eyes at a young age.
Aside from these celebrities on the TV, KPOP is another major inspiration for me. I remember when my brother randomly played BIGBANG’s Lies – I did not know what Korean was and what was KPOP then – but it grew on me and I started digging Kpop ever since. Thus, these huge inspirations ignited my curiosity and a dream to perform – which eventually led to this outlet called, ‘dance’.
In the early years of my dance journey (about four years now), I definitely look up to international renowned choreographers like Brian Friedman, Travis Wall, Kyle Hanagami and Camillo Lauricella and I still do now.
However, as I danced more, I realise I would narrow my inspirations further to the genres that I do or the elements of their dance that I liked. For example in waacking, I love Bagsy (UK), MR.BIG (KR) and MCJO (KR) for their gentleman style of waacking. The people around me as well such as Ibuki who’s such an inspiration and humble person, Bryan Lee who’s always there to guide me, Amin Alifin whose fusion of jazz and waacking always inspires me, and my Mak (mother for Malay) Ryezal Rahim for the tough love always.
Looking back on my dance journey, I did not think it would evolve into how it is now. I think I have come a really long way in terms of my style and in overall – compared to like a few years ago. Not saying that I’m super fantastic now or doing very well – in fact, I have not really achieved anything recently but I am glad for the opportunities that came my way because of dance.
At first, it was just ’Street jazz’ and being sassy and being feminine in dance (nothing wrong with that – in fact I do this sometimes too but not all the time anymore), but slowly I have grown to accept and pursue other styles as well as currently brewing my own. At the moment, my style is very inspired by classic male jazz dancers, Berry Brothers and Bob Fassie, as well as male legends like Michael Jackson, John Travolta, Prince and Elvis.”
What kept you going?
“This is such a good question. The reason why I say so is simply that so many memories (mostly bitter) are coming back while I am saying this and they definitely are reminding me why I should keep on pushing.
One of the main reasons why I chose to still pursue dance is because I feel that ultimately it is a form of escape for me. Whatever happens in the reality of life, you can leave that behind and retreat into your mind with dancing. This is such a powerful concept for me. The idea of expressing yourself genuinely is so hard sometimes because we as humans are always restricted by the barriers around us but dance gives us the allowance for us to break these walls down and being real to the people watching you.
Another reason is that with dance, I can sometimes feel the purest form of human connection. A glance at the eyes of the audience, the touch of your partner’s hands in a couple work, a spoken word, that last breath at the end of your performance.
Going back to my childhood problem of communication, I would not say that I have perfected the art of communication either. I still suck at it. I mean, to be completely honest. The idea of ‘opening up’ to people, it’s still… extremely hard for me. I’m sure you guys know, life’s a b*tch, you sometimes get tossed upside down, having relationships that are good or bad. For me, I have anxiety and trust issues – most probably am the most paranoid person you ever know. You know the phrase, “a picture says a thousand words?”. I think dance can say a million words. (Ok exaggerating but you’d get my point).
In general, I think tough times motivate me to dance more – in a way it makes me appreciate the times that I have to dance – and the fact that I have matured from those life experiences which will then affect how I move.
I definitely am trying to keep on dancing, simply because I would like to develop my own unique style – something that I can proudly say, ‘hey it’s me’. Having done this for four to five years, there’s so much more out there for me to learn and explore. I definitely aim to push myself to the limit to see how far I can go in this art form. “
Any difficulties that you experienced dancing? And how did you overcome it?
“Definitely body image issues. Interpersonal issues. Confidence issues. Parents’ expectations. Bad mental habits in general. I think almost every dancer went through any or all of these. Am I not good enough? Am I too fat? Am I too ugly? What if I’m just embarrassing myself? What if my parents disapprove of me dancing? What do the audience/people think of me?
Though one of the earliest hurdles that came my way was when I just about to start dancing – I was 15/16 years old I think. Someone told me that I had 0.01% talent in dancing. I still remember how I felt back then until now and maybe it did get to me for a bit, it still kind of stings.
I remember having to match up to people’s expectations to move in a certain way and hit a certain standard (when I still suck). And the list goes on. From trying to catch choreographies in mere minutes to performing solo for the first time, battling with self-expectations of the outcome while making choreography decisions on stage moments before showtime. Even teaching young kids or having people telling me I suck at certain things or even being caught up in work and not being able to dance for a long time… There were (are) MANY difficulties that I faced up to this date. As cliché as it sounds, I think the only way to overcome all of this is really to believe and to push on. I subconsciously try to practice this – If I’m stuck at work all day, I try to listen to songs that I like and dance in my head – or visualise how I would look like dancing when I’m performing these songs in my head. And remember, if you love dancing, it will stay in and with you all the time.”
What are your current goals in your dance journey?
“One main goal this year is actually to release a really-extremely-delayed (since I was out of Singapore for so long) concept video of me and my waacking partner hehe (it’s a she!). We decided to keep it a tease for now so please stay tuned for that!
The second goal is definitely to be back in Singapore and participate in more battles or showcase competitions. I have basically missed ‘Waack It Out’ & ‘Waack City’ this year. Two waacking events in a year in Singapore is such a blessing and I missed them for work (in Jakarta). To be honest I was devastated. But hopefully, I can join one soon when I am ready to show an evolved version of myself – sharing a different ‘me’ on the dance floor!
The third goal is actually to pursue contemporary seriously. I was in NRA back in my polytechnic days but I managed to be in D3, the contemporary club for about a year and looking back, I really miss the contemporary training. I have friends coming up to me, telling me I should pursue this. I have also decided that it’s time to return to it. “
What does dance mean to you?
“I think ‘dance’ is equivalent to ‘performance’. Apart of feeling human connections that I mentioned earlier – I think ‘dance’ means releasing your own alter egos on stage.
Fun fact, I am a huge fan of RPGs and animes. I simply love the idea of ‘transformations’. It’s like being the better or another version of yourself. I think that we all have that inner power inside us – and to apply it to dance – it can mean the development of ‘character’ or ‘depth’. When you move, you are telling a story to the audience. Apart from your facial expressions, it’s also your body language, the texture and accents of your movements – it’s like your life stories, experiences, memories are flowing with the movements.”
I understand you are working and dancing at the same time, how do you juggle those?
“Such a fitting question as this applies to my current situation better than ever. You simply have to learn how to sacrifice or compromise – others call it ‘prioritise’.
Right now, I’m in the state of ‘work-first’ due to the nature and status of my job but in near future, I will change it to ‘work-dance balance’ real soon. My goal is to work and dance on the same day.”
Having been in both the Singapore scene and the Indonesia scene, what are the biggest differences do you notice?
“Comparing Singapore as a developed country and Indonesia as a developing country, I would say that infrastructure is one of the biggest differences in terms of the facilities available. In Singapore, we can probably rush from one studio to another and catch two different classes from different studios on the same day. However in Indonesia, if you are in the east side of Jakarta for your first class of the day, you probably won’t make it to your next class on the west, simply due to the traffic 🙂
Another difference that I have noticed is simply the overall general mentality of ‘fire’/ passion. Most of the dancers that I met in Indonesia are super passionate and they 120% give their lives & livelihood to dance. To them, nothing else matters as they have simply nothing to lose which I really admire. However, realistically I can’t be like them and I need to have a full-time job which kinda sets me apart from most of my Indonesian dance friends 🙂 “
What are your thoughts on our current dance community?
“To be honest, I have kinda lost touch of what happened in the time I was not in Singapore and I’m not entirely sure of how to put this in exact words but I feel that the audience nowadays is impressed with only the result of things but not the essence or process, or the hidden meaning behind it – simply put (which I’m sorry to say and not mean to offend anyone) that understanding and the appraisal of the dance can be done in a very superficial point of view.
However, I feel like the dance community has grown bigger and bigger – with more of the younger generations stepping it up and hungry to achieve their goals, which is good!”
What do you hope to see in the future for the Singapore dance scene?
“I would say open-mindedness and inclusivity for people of different backgrounds. Hopefully, there will be more fusions and authentic and unique styles that are fresh.
One thing that I hope to see in the future is that as the younger dancers are growing up and taking over the places of the seniors, they should still respect those who came before them and be grateful for those who paved the way for them. History is important for us to know – so we can also then make our own history.”
Please define what Community means to you.
“I think community simply means ‘a group of people that sincerely has the same passion as you and also there to back you up to achieve things together for this common passion.’ Your community is there for you, they are your dance mate, soulmate, friends. I think another fitting word for this might be ‘chosen family’. And regardless, these group of people is there for you through thick and thin so you are not alone in this journey of pursuit because we are all heading there together.”
Any wise words that you keep in your heart when the going gets tough?
“Everything happens for a reason and it gets better with every fail. And lastly, the classic No Pain, No Gain. “
To all dancers that intend to work and dance at the same time, any words of advice for them?
“If you want it, don’t doubt it and don’t doubt yourself! Go and get it, take anything negative with a deep breath and just stay focused. You are most of the time your worst enemy so remember to get out of your own head and once you have passed that, you got it in the bag!”
Finally, any events in the upcoming months that we will be able to catch you at?
“If there are any upcoming battles (all styles/funk) in Singapore, maybe I’ll join! There’s actually this upcoming end of year waacking & vogueing battle in Bangkok this December, ‘Bangkok Paradisco’, I hope I can be there!”
(P.s. please stay tuned for the mentioned concept video soon – it’ll happen! )