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Joanna Tan


Homecoming dance

Article from the Sun daily by Joyce Ang (posted on 22nd Sep 2015)

HAVING spent most of her formative years abroad, and with a thriving career as a dancer in the United States, one would not expect Joanna Tan to return to Malaysia. Admittedly, she didn't either but it's been two years and the bubbly lass is not regretting her decision. 

Growing up in a musical household, Tan's family has always been supportive of her artistic endeavours. She began her dance education at the age of four when her mother enrolled her in ballet classes, and her flair for movement was evident as a toddler.

"My mum and sister both played the piano, so before I could even walk properly, I was already moving and spinning whenever music was playing in the house," laughed the 25-year-old. However, she briefly stopped dancing to focus on music performance and artistic gymnastics. But through a series of fortunate events, dance eventually made its way back into Tan's life.

"I was given the opportunity to pursue a degree in dance at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. Upon graduation, I danced professionally with a contemporary dance company and taught dance too," said Tan, who currently teaches dance and Pilates as well. Since she moved back, Tan has collaborated with numerous artistes and dance companies, both local and international.

Why did you decide to return to Malaysia?

I was born in Malaysia but grew up in a few countries. I ended up studying and working in the USA. When I decided to return, it was for a variety of reasons. I knew I wanted to give back to the dance community by sharing what I had learned abroad. I also wanted to be closer to my parents and extended family and there was also a longing to be grounded after moving around for so much of my life.

How did you end up becoming a teacher?

I began teaching dance while still pursuing my dance degree. Over my summer breaks, I was invited to choreograph and teach as a guest for companies and arts schools. Upon returning to Malaysia, I was offered the opportunity to teach dance at an international school. Teaching dance as a school subject is very different from teaching at a dance studio or for a dance company. I thought it was a great opportunity to develop further as a teacher and I've not looked back since.

Are there moments when you feel like focusing solely on either dancing or teaching?

When I first moved back, there were moments when I missed dancing every day and disliked teaching fulltime. However, I've learned that I'd eventually feel burnt out if I were to focus on either teaching or performing. What I've learned from dabbling in both pathways is that I can't do one thing without the other. If I'm dancing, I need to be teaching. If I receive, I need to give too.

How do you balance between the two?

Honestly, I don't know the answer to that because I often feel unbalanced! However, I'm thankful that both pathways correlate with each other. Often, I plan dance lessons in my head while I'm taking dance classes. The main thing that keeps me grounded is my community – the people around me help keep me in check. They remind me to take it one step at a time, and focus on the main objective.

"Above all, love deeply." Whether we recognise it or not, without love, we wouldn't be here. Be grateful for the life you've been given and the choice you have with it – either to build yourself up or to build others up.



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