Thursday, 13 February 2020 15:54

Dalila Samad

The dancing queen

Article from the Sun daily (posted on 13 Feb 2019)

A CAREER in dance was not on Dalila Samad’s mind when she was studying for her A-Levels, and not after having already made plans to pursue a career in medicine.

However once the 26-year-old’s true passion was awakened, there was no stopping this young lady when she realised that dancing was what she wanted to do.

A graduate from Aswara (Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan), Dalila is currently attached to the ASK Dance Company. She performs regularly with both ASK and Aswara.

She also teaches dance classes regularly and helps to choreograph for children who are entering dance competitions.

Dalila has also branched out into acting in commercials and short films. She also recently auditioned for a major musical revival.

What made you decide that dance was your dream?

“I was really set on medicine, but maybe the stars re-aligned and I got exposed to dance at that time (She was studying at TAR college in Setapak).

“I signed up for a talentime audition [in] the dance category. The seniors and people I met during that time were all into dance. It opened a whole new network for me. I landed a gig as a [flash mob dancer], and that is when I met Aswara students.

“After sitting for my A-Levels I started thinking about what I really wanted to do. So I went for Aswara auditions.”

How did your parents react to this career switch?

“Not good, not good at all (laughs). They were just surprised. I have strong family support, so even though I did not want to study medicine, I was advised that the medical field was so broad and there were many things I could do.

“My mother actually took me around a hospital and showed me different departments like psychotherapy, dermatology and [so on]. My grandmother really wanted me to become a doctor, but I really wasn’t feeling it.”

Did you ever take up dance before?

“I did, but informally. I enjoyed it. [I performed at] school concerts, or once a week outside a studio, doing hip hop and a bit of jazz when I was in high school. It was nothing serious, but I was consistent with my classes. It was a way to de-stress on the weekends. I was really really active with my dance club and theatre club in school.

“I only started formal training in Aswara.”

Is anybody in your family into the arts?

“They do it on the side. My mum was a gymnast and she even represented Malaysia at one point. My dad loves music and plays the guitar really well.”

What was it like to finally get formal dance training?

“I was a bit shocked but I enjoyed it very much. At Aswara we had to learn Malay, Chinese, Indian, contemporary, ballet and choreography, and on top of that the history of all the dances. For example, it was not just Malay dance in general, you have to specify [whether it is] folk or classical.

“I also learned [forms like] Mak Yong and Bangsawan. I really enjoyed it.”

Did learning traditional Malay dances connect you to your cultural roots?

“I was more proud of them than ever, I didn’t just fall in love with the form but the whole aesthetics.”

Do you have a favourite?

“I can’t really pick. I love all genres. I am the kind of person who likes to master everything.

“People [know me more for] styles like contemporary, but for me I need to work on all dance forms and only then will I be satisfied.”

Are you a starving artist?

“I am fortunate enough to work for a dance company that gives me monthly wages. I am probably earning half of what my brother is making, but I am content.”



Published in Biographies
Tuesday, 04 February 2020 13:57

Imran Syafiq

The joy of movement

Article from the Sun daily by Bissme.S (posted on 4 Feb 2020)

DANCING allows Imran Syafiq to express himself. The 28-year-old lad pursued a bachelor’s degree in dance where, interestingly, he specialised in bharata natyam.

Currently holding the position of managing director at ASK Dance Company, Imran also hopes that more government funds are given to develop the Malaysian dance scene.

How did your journey as a dancer begin?

“My childhood dream was to be a scientist. My older sister belonged to a cultural club during her school days. One of the main activities of the cultural club was learning Malay traditional dances such as joget, inang and zapin. I followed my sister to her rehearsals. I was exposed to the world of dance. I loved what I saw.

“When I entered secondary school, I also joined the cultural club. Like my sister, I learned Malay traditional dances. Later I decided to pursue dance as my career.

“I pursued a diploma and a degree in dance in Aswara (Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan). Later I took up a bachelor’s degree in dance where I majored in bharata natyam.”

What attracted you to bharata natyam?

“(Laughing) Everyone always asks me this question. They are curious as to why, as a Malay, I am attracted to Indian classical dance.

“In Aswara, you are trained to be a versatile dancer. You are exposed to Malay, Indian, Chinese, Sabah and Sarawak dance forms. I was exposed to bharata natyam there.

“I find the dance to be interesting. I love the complexity of the dance. You have to act, you have to dance, you have to have the stamina to keep up with the routine. I found that I was expressing myself better through bharata natyam.”

Tell us more about your family. Did your parents object to your dance ambitions?

“My father is a lawyer who runs his own law firm, and my mother is a businesswoman. They have three children and I am the youngest. My sister became a lawyer just like my father, and my brother became a businessman just like my mother.

“There was some protest from my father when I wanted to purse dance. He felt I could not sustain myself through dance. He was just worried about my future.

“But I took up the challenge. I managed to show my father I could sustain myself through dance. Now, he is more understanding towards my dance career.”

You are the managing director for ASK Dance Company. Tell us about ASK.

“We have 10 full-time dancers who are also doing marketing for the company. We specialise in providing training, workshops, master classes, performances, choreography as well as undertaking collaborative projects in traditional and contemporary genres of dance.

“Since 2011, we have held workshops in rural and urban areas where we teach students how to perform Malay traditional dances. Two years ago, we started a project where we trained teachers in rural and urban areas on dance, and eventually the teachers will go and teach their students how to dance.”

What is the biggest challenge you face as a Malaysian dancer?

“Dancers in Malaysia are always underpaid. I dance because I have a passion for it. You can’t rely solely on dance for income. You have to diversify. I am also a part-time dance lecturer for Aswara teaching bharata natyam. I am also a dance tutor for a few dance studios. I have participated in several dance workshops in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Hawaii to teach Malay dance, and I get paid for it.”

What are the changes you’d like to see in the Malaysian dance scene?

“I would love to see more cross-cultural exchange in the Malaysian dance scene. I would love to see an Indian learning Malay dance, a Malay dancer learning Indian dance, etc. To a certain degree, Ramli Ibrahim has done that. I would also love to see more funds raised for the Malaysian dance scene.”


Published in Biographies
Friday, 18 October 2019 11:42

Jeremie Gan

To be en pointe

Article from the Sun daily by S. Indra Sathiabalan (posted on 4 Sep 2019)

YOU could say that Jeremie Gan was born to dance. The Malaysian ballerino was only about 11 years old when he won a scholarship from The Dance Society (a local ballet organisation) to attend a week of summer intensives in Melbourne.

There, he learnt about ballet and other genres of dance from teachers who came from all over the world.

The experience of being able to dance for the whole day at the classes he attended made Gan realised this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

He had no hesitation later telling his mum, a ballet teacher, that “I would like to have this as a career”.

The 21-year-old is currently performing with the Singapore Dance Theatre. It helps that Gan is doing a distance-learning bachelor of science degree in business and management with the University of London which allows him to dance full-time with the theatre company.

Gan’s younger brother is also studying ballet in the US. The only family member dancing to a different tune is his father, who is a mechanical engineer.

When did you take your first dance lesson? What was it like?

“I was told I took my first dance lesson at age two-and-a-half. I honestly don’t remember, and it always felt intriguing to me since I never could actually remember a time before ballet, per se.

“Ballet has always been a part of me since the very beginning. As my mum is a ballet teacher, she had no one to take care of me while she taught classes, so she would just place me in a corner of the studio with some toys and food to keep me entertained.

“That’s where the spark must have ignited, and when I was old enough to comprehend simple instructions and commands, I was placed in one of the little kids’ classes to begin.

“I remember vividly being the only boy in the class [throughout] my ballet education, until the time I furthered my studies in New Zealand on a scholarship.

“But one memory that stuck with me was [wearing] a swimsuit ‘onesie’ with the zip at the front, as there were not many easily available choices for male ballet clothing at the time, and the leotards that were available were only the ones designed for females.

“So it was definitely a look [for me] during my first few years in ballet!”

Did you ever try other dance forms?

“It started off with ballet but after that summer school in Melbourne where I was exposed to other styles, I [enjoyed] contemporary as well, as it allowed my body to move in ways that are less restrictive as opposed to classical ballet.

“With most ballet companies now being much more diverse in their repertoire, there are more [chances of] exposure and [higher] expectation [for] ballet dancers to be able to perform in ballet shoes [for] traditional ballets, or barefoot in a contemporary piece.”

Male ballet dancers (ballerinos) seldom get the chance to shine, as most ballets focus on female protagonists. How do you overcome this challenge?

“I usually try to stand out during the solo sections of a ballet. Most ballets are designed in sections, with some sections [for] the entire corp de ballet (ensemble), some just [for] the men, and some as solo pieces.

“During the solos or male ensemble sections, if there are any, I would try to shine then and project [myself more to] the audience.

“However, during sections involving dancing or partnering with a female, I would focus on making her look good ... by not standing out too much and making her the focal point of the piece.

“Kind of like the condiments in a dish, if you can see and taste it where it becomes the main theme of the entrée, then it’s too much.”

What is the hardest thing a male ballet dancer has to put up with?

“The general stereotype that men don’t do ballet – and when the general public accepts that you dance and do ballet, they then have to get their head around the fact that it is your professional career which you have done tertiary studies for, and are getting paid just like any other profession.”


Published in Biographies
Friday, 26 April 2019 10:56

Reborn Khoo

Passion for dance
A chance decision sparked Reborn Khoo’s journey to becoming a street dance instructor

Article from the Sun daily by Bissme. S (posted on 23 April 2019)

LOOKS can be deceiving. Reborn Khoo is a perfect example of this phrase.

At first glance, the 28-year-old from Klang looks like a mild-mannered accountant.

In reality, his chosen career has nothing to do with numbers.

Instead, since the age of 18, Khoo has been an avid street dancer, specialising in popping and locking.

How did your passion for street dance begin?

“When I was 18 years old, I was looking for some kind of activities to join. I wanted to join a break dance class. But I did not have the guts to join a class alone.

“I tried to convince my two friends to take the class with me. But my friends were not keen. They were more interested in joining the street dance class.

“So I decided to [follow them]. Slowly, I began to like it.

“I have joined street dance competitions [both] locally and overseas.

“[Participating in] international competitions has allowed me to visit so many countries, such as Japan, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand.

“I participate in street dance workshops to enhance my knowledge. I’ve even joined two dance competitions on TV.

One is called Battlegrounds and the other is Showdown.

“I am now a full-time street dance instructor, teaching street dance in universities and dance studios.

“I never dreamed of making street dance my career. In fact, I graduated with an advanced diploma in graphic design. I always thought dance would be just my hobby.”

How did your parents react to your career choice?

“My parents run a business. They supply spare parts for forklifts.

“My parents did not protest when I wanted to be a dancer. They were just worried whether I could earn enough money from dancing.

“I think they are proud of me whenever I participate in international competitions, and when the students I teach put up a fantastic performance.”

What advice can you give a young person who wants to dabble in street dance?

“The street dance community is small here. You need to travel overseas and check out the street dance communities there. You should observe them and learn from them.

“In that way, you could enhance your knowledge of street dance. Travelling always opens your mind to new ideas.

“I remember watching a 45-year-old person doing street dance in Japan. It showed me dancing has no age.

“If you take care of your health, you can dance at any age.”

What are the challenges you have faced as a street dancer in Malaysia?

“If you are a singer, there are a lot of platforms for you to showcase your talent. That is not the case for street dancing.

“The job scope is small. I have to work hard just to sustain myself. But I have not regretted making street dance my career.

“Street dance is a great art form for me to express myself. Street dance is a dance that promotes unity, peace and love.”

Do you exercise, or follow a certain diet?

“I do exercise. I go to the gym five times a week.

“But going on a diet is out of the question. I love food too much. It is difficult for me to control my food. I try to burn the calories I eat through exercise.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

“My weakness is sometimes I can be negative about myself. Perhaps I have high expectations of myself.

“But I am slow to balance the negative and positive energy in me.

“If I talk about my strengths, I feel as though I am bragging about myself. It feels weird to praise myself. I think it is a question you should ask my friends.”

Where do you see yourself in five years?

“I am seriously contemplating joining my father’s business. I like his business strategy.

“I am planning to open a plant in Johor Baru. But I will not abandon my street dance.”



Published in Biographies
Wednesday, 29 November 2017 16:00

Ng Xinying

Care to dance?

Article from the Sun daily by Mark Mathen Victor (posted on 28 November 2017)

STRUTTING in ballet pointe shoes at the age of four, Ng Xinying would go on to cross over a multitude of different dance styles and disciplines for the next two decades before her maiden, debut (arangetram) performance in 2013.

An important aspect in the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam that marks the end of a student's rigorous training, her solo two-hour performance was well over three years ago. "Right now, I'm a full-time lecturer in Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan (Aswara)," she explains.

Born in Johor, the 28-year-old caught the dancing fever at a young age. "My parents told me that I would never stop dancing if I heard music as a child. So they sent me to learn ballet," she says.

Completing her diploma and degree programmes with Aswara, she then set her sights on Korea National University of Arts's Master of Fine Arts programme, and has not looked back since.

As a choreographer, performer and teacher, she has now taken on the role that was once held by her mentor proclaiming, "When I was young, I had to make sure that everything I learned stayed inside of me. Now, whatever I had learned, I intend on transferring to my students. I want to give back, especially here, in Aswara (where I began)".

Was your family welcoming of this choice?

I started dancing at a young age, and my parents sent me to ballet school. They had no problems at all. Everyone is always shocked with this. Like, my mother is a principal in primary school, and my father works for the church, while my two sisters are into law and pharmacy. I'm really thankful for my parents' understanding and for knowing what I wanted.

Why Indian dance specifically?

Bharatanatyam was one of the compulsory subjects in Aswara. While doing my degree, I had the option of choosing one dance to major in. I was thinking of contemporary dancing, but my dean, Joseph Gonzales, urged me to choose Bharatanatyam as he believed I was very good at it. At the time, I wanted (to do) contemporary dance because it gave the option of studying in Korea. In the end, my dean advised me to do a double major.

So, the decision was dictated by the school?

Yes, but it was also my decision. For me, Bharatanatyam was really challenging and taxing on my stamina. It's very tiring to coordinate my body, from the eyes, neck, hands, fingers, leg movement and beats. There were also the facial expressions aspect through "abhinaya". Ultimately, I was attracted to the challenge of it all.

Have you been injured due to dancing?

I have had two major injuries in my life. The first happened while I was with ASK Dance Company. It was a duet, and my partner was supposed to lift me. In duets, there needs to be control, but his hand must have slipped, and he dropped me on my face. My head was (knocking the table) on the floor.

I completed the solo with blood streaming down my face. The surgery cost me 30-something stitches.

The second injury was not because of a dance; it was in one of the school's female washrooms. After using the washroom, the whole water tank dropped on my foot. This happened one month after my head injury. It really sent me into depression, because compared to the first injury, the second injury was worse due to how much more I needed my feet over my head.

Due to your fear of talking in front of a crowd, do you find it easier to communicate through the physicality of dance and facial expressions compared to just speaking?

Yes, body language is much, much easier for me. Maybe because of that, I prefer dance. Yes, I still have to perform in front of people, but it is a completely different thing. I'm still nervous, but it's much more calming; it is a different kind of "performance" compared to talking.


Published in Biographies
Friday, 07 July 2017 12:52

Raziman Sarbini

Footloose, but not fancy-free

Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 6 July 2017)

FOR someone who only began dancing at the age of 19, Raziman Sarbini is doing very well for himself. Upon leaving secondary school in Limbang, Sarawak, he tried his luck at an audition to enter the National Academy of Arts, Culture, and Heritage (ASWARA).

"I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life … maybe I would have become a policeman if I didn't get into ASWARA," he laughed.

He got inspired to learn dancing after watching reality dance show So You Think You Can Dance and seeing how athletic and amazing the dancers were. It's been quite the journey for Raziman, and he is now on his way to New York University (NYU) to do the Master of Fine Art programme at the Tisch School of Performance Art.

With zero background in dancing, how did you find fitting in at ASWARA like?

When I entered ASWARA, I was surprised but at the same time, excited. I'm very enthusiastic about practical lessons and I'm a student that works hard.

Every new dance that I did, I liked it. Except Indian dance – it's difficult.

I can do it, but I just don't like it. But contemporary dance is my favourite.

I like ballet as well, even though it's difficult for me, a person who has no basics in dancing and only began at 19. The good thing about studying at ASWARA is that you learn so many different kinds of dances, which enables you to switch your feelings easily as well.

Does bringing out your emotions when dancing come naturally to you?

It comes naturally to me. I am a very emotional person. I feel things very deeply, and it's easy for me to portray it in dance.

I can switch it on very easily. I guess that's why I dance well; it could be due to my personality and attitude too. I'm a hardworking student.

I always want to go beyond my capabilities, and I frequently compare myself to someone who is far more amazing. I'm always setting the bar higher for myself by being dissatisfied with what I have.

What have you been up to since you graduated from ASWARA?

Since I graduated, my biggest and most immediate goal is to enter university overseas. A year after I graduated in 2015, I got accepted into NYU. But the biggest problem I faced was that I didn't have enough funds to enter the programme at Tisch.

I only had a RM100,000 scholarship from Yayasan Sime Darby, but it wasn't enough as the programme itself costs approximately RM600,000.

However, I persisted and sent letters to many companies, knocking on possible doors, which could help fund my studies. I really wanted to further my studies.

I felt that if I stayed in Malaysia any longer, I wouldn't be able to grow as much. I've worked with many amazing choreographers and teachers in Malaysia, and I feel like now is the time for me to grow.

Now, I can happily say that I have obtained a full scholarship to further my studies in Tisch.

What advice do you have for students who want to pursue their dreams, but may not have sufficient funds for it?

I'd tell them to work really hard, no matter what. Put in 200 or 300% in everything and nail it. Show people that you're really good and passionate in what you want.

That's the most important thing that you need to show people before you ask for any assistance. Your persistence will be proof that you're good and deserving of it.

It's also important to listen to advice from experienced people in the area; ask questions, take their opinions.

Also, be very humble and know your roots well. If you feel like you don't have any opportunities, find one. There will always be an opportunity. I went through this a lot last year – I was struggling. Don't give up.

 





Published in Biographies
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 00:00

Alena Murang

 

Better for Borneo

Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 20 September 2016)

ALENA Ose' Murang may not be very good at maths – her elder brother's got that covered – but she's profoundly inspired, and equally inspiring. The 27-year-old is an artist, musician, dancer, strategist and social entrepreneur all rolled into one; armed with a mission to bring about positive changes to society and the environment, and preserve her Borneon heritage.

She was born to a Kelabit father, but it was really her English-Italian mother – an anthropologist – who nurtured Alena's interests and identity in Kelabit culture, traditions, and their way of life. Growing up in Kuching, Alena took ngarang (dance in indigenous lingo) classes; learnt to play the sape (a traditional twostringed lute), weave and make costumes; even studied songs of the Kenyah tribe, and the language of the Penan people.

Although she has a management degree, Alena pursued an arts foundation course at Singapore's Lasalle College of the Arts in 2014. But her dreams of becoming a fine artist were dashed, when her lecturers told her she wouldn't make a happy one.

"They told me, 'Fine artists are selfish and inward-thinking; while your work is all about your community and heritage.' I was quite troubled by that for a few months, but then I started ART4 (i.e. art for) – as a hashtag, initially – promising myself to use art as a medium for social impact.

"Eventually, I started taking commissioned artwork and performances to ART4 (www. alenamurang.com). I also do management consulting, and the revenue I get from those I channel into cultural heritage and environmental impact projects," explained Alena.

This Saturday, the multi-talented lass is hosting a public launch for her debut EP, Flight which was released last month.

Have you explored your English and Italian roots?

I studied in the UK for five years, but I was a bit naive. I didn't like England because I didn't see any culture, which to me, meant colourful traditional garbs, beads, celebrations and dances back then. Only when I was a bit older I realised culture is effervescent.

I've never lived in Italy, but I try to go back every year. I really connect with where my grandma's from, which is Naples in southern Italy. It's rich in history and culture, and in a lot of ways people there are very similar to Malaysians. They love their food, and park on yellow lines. I do want to explore that side more – I just haven't done it yet.

How is storytelling through painting, dancing and playing music different for you?

Honestly, painting is my first love. I feel that I do music more, but I'd rather paint – it's my ultimate form of expression. With the sape, I don't write my own songs so I don't express all of myself through it. I use it as a medium to tell stories of my roots. I do traditional dances to keep the art form, so the only stories I tell are why and when we used to dance.

Which was the most interesting project you've done under ART4?

In January last year, we collaborated with Biji-biji Initiative to upcycle a helipad in Genting Highlands. It wasn't used anymore so they wanted an art on it. We painted a big bird, where one of the wings came out as a 3D sculpture – made using metal parts welded by Bijibiji.

About 80% of everything we upcycled were from Genting. We rummaged through its waste management area, and found old casino chairs, pots and pans; and took apart an old Transformer – it was like a playground for us! But it was taken down early this year, because Genting is going through a transformation programme. Outdoor art is almost always ephemeral.

Tell us about your EP, Flight.

My music is quite traditional, but I want to make it relatable, so that people in the urban setting and people who don't know anything about Sarawak are able to associate with it. In Flight, I play the sape and sing, and it's backed by other instruments such as violin, harp and some percussion.

TRIVIA

Spirit animal: Hornbill.

Dessert of choice: "Dark chocolate anything!"

Favourite scents: Freshly ground coffee, or freshly mown grass.

Inspirations: Parents; social entrepreneurs Biji-biji Initiative, and Build for Tomorrow.

Favourite artists: Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian and Cilau Valadez.

Fear factor: Lizards. "I can handle snakes and scorpions – just not lizards."

 

Published in Biographies
Friday, 06 May 2016 00:00

Phang Sook Kuan

 

Hip hopping to fame

Article from the Sun daily by Michelle Lim (posted on 5 May 2016)

BEING a female dancer in Malaysia's male-dominated hip hop industry isn't a bed of roses, according to Phang Sook Kuan, more popularly known by her stage name Seven.

Competitions can be extra challenging simply because she's often going up against the guys, who are physically stronger and faster. "But I will not give up dancing for the world," the 25-year-old added, undeterred.

Phang began dancing at the age of 14, and soon formed her first all-girl group, So Crazy. The unit did amazingly well and bagged numerous championship titles. In 2010, she found herself to be the only female dancer in another group, Katoon Network.

"The dynamics were totally different and I found myself working twice as hard as the guys to make up for my lack of stamina and strength. It has resulted in injuries at times, but at the end of the day, it is worth it. This has earned me the privilege to choreograph some of our dances, and that is a real honour," Phang concluded.

Her efforts, which include daily practice and strength training, proved fruitful when Katoon Network was crowned champion at the 2011 Astro Battleground competition, following many other triumphs throughout the years.

First of all, could you tell us why you decided to use the name Seven?

The name actually came from a game we played in school where no real names were allowed. We drew numbers instead and mine was number 77. Everyone called me Seven and somehow the name just stuck.

How did you first find your love for hip hop dance?

When I was a teenager, I was inspired by the movie You Got Served (2004), which was really popular at that time. I truly admired the dance moves and loved how cool they looked. I began learning on my own from watching similar videos and movies. I later joined a dance studio where I met the first few members of my current crew.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Our team was flown out to Las Vegas to contend at the 2014 World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Although we only made it through to the semi-final, it was an honour to participate in one of the world's biggest hip hop dance tournaments! We hope to make it back again and win.

Which do you prefer: freestyle or choreography?

Definitely freestyle. There's nothing like having the freedom to interpret music through your body in a spontaneous manner.

What do you think is your spirit animal?

A bird! I love the freedom of movement, and to be able to go anywhere I want would be amazing.

Illustrate your typical dance outfit.

An oversized tee with a hoodie and baggy pants, cap and trainers. Because I'm quite skinny, wearing layered, oversized clothes would give me a better form when I dance.

What is your goal for the year?

I am working hard to be part of more competitions, especially ones that are held overseas. I also want to grow the hip hop scene in Malaysia and help break stereotypes that hip hop dancers are all hooligans. We're pretty nice people actually!

 

Published in Biographies
Wednesday, 13 January 2016 00:00

Kimberly Yap Choy Hoong

 

Body language

Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 7 July 2015)

ON the surface, ballet and Bharatanatyam (a classical Indian dance) may share nothing in common but to Kimberly Yap Choy Hoong, her foundation in the former is very much responsible for her passion in the other. As a matter of fact, Yap's lifelong affair with dancing began with a case of love at first sight.

"My mum brought me to watch my first ballet show in Istana Budaya when I was four or five years old. I can't remember which ballet it was but it inspired me to take up ballet and I've been doing it up until now. That was how I discovered my love for dancing," shared the 24-year-old.

Despite completing her Bachelor of Arts in Dance at the National Arts Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA) only recently, Yap has already been signed as Senior Apprentice with the ASWARA Dance Company, where she would officially kickstart her career.

And although she is a Bharatanatyam major, the soft-spoken ballerina has mastered different genres including traditional Malay folk, classical Malay, Chinese, Iban and contemporary dances in the three years of her diploma programme.

"People commonly tell me things like, you're a dancer and you won't earn that much. But that doesn't matter to me. It's more of doing what I love and being happy. If you have the love and passion for dancing, go for it. Don't think twice!" said Yap.

What do you love about dancing?

Dancing helps me express things that I can't. I'm not good with words so being able to communicate through dancing gives me a fun, exciting feeling.

Why did you choose to major in Bharatanatyam?

I'm more of a technical dancer – I like techniques; I'm all about the lines, extension, angles and how the body should look like. Bharatanatyam is similar to classical ballet in the way that it uses a lot of lines and angles so I grew fond of it and eventually fell in love with it.

Why do you think your parents are so supportive of your career in dancing?

I guess because both my parents love being involved in arts. My dad used to play the guitar for his band when he was younger and my mum loves drawing, painting and arranging flowers. Initially my mum was a bit taken aback when I said I wanted to pursue dancing as a career but when she saw me strive towards it with focus – I joined the cheerleading team and traditional dance society in secondary school – she saw how much I loved it and wanted to be in that field.

What kind of challenges did you face as a dance student?

I struggled in my first two years as a diploma student. The schedule was really intense; I would have eight hours of classes every day and from 6pm to 10pm, I would either attend elective classes such as basic acting or vocal lessons, or practise on my own. Self-rehearsals are required because you can't go into the next class not knowing what you're supposed to do so you really need to practise in front of the mirror to know your posture, movements, expressions, how it's supposed to look and feel like. These elements don't come in one or two hours – it's a gradual process.

Do you have a fitness regimen or diet you adhere to, to stay fit?

I do a lot of abdominal workout because your core has to be strong. I'm blessed with a high metabolism rate so I get to eat a lot without feeling guilty. I'm not a breakfast person so I usually take a protein shake in the morning, rice with vegetables and chicken for lunch, and I pig out during dinner. I keep snacks such as oat crunch biscuits or cereal bars in my bag too for an easy and quick refill.

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