Dance has taught me to change my clothes in 15 seconds, it has taught me to put my hair up in a bun in 10 seconds but most importantly, it has allowed me to find peace in the oasis of movement, rhythm, and music. It has provided me with an outlet for self-expression.
I grew up to be a quiet and reserved individual and dance has always been my sanctuary when I failed to express myself emotionally. Growing up in Japan where modesty is a preferred quality, I could never outwardly express my sadness or frustration. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” – that was the kind of mentality I was brought up with but I found nothing about bottling up my emotions appealing. Dance has allowed me to remain quiet but fight for what I believe in at the same time.
Moving my body to music always came naturally but what made me truly attached to the field was through my encounter with contemporary dance in 6th grade. I have always loved the structured nature of ballet but I loved the versatility and the elements of improvisation involved in contemporary dancing even more. In 7th grade, I was put into a small contemporary class and being the only 7th grader in the class, there were times when intimidation got the best of me however, my passion allowed me to recover in time to see the special bond I share with dance. Today, dance gives me the courage to face challenges even in the most difficult situations and the confidence I have built in dance have extended to other areas of my life such as public speaking.
Some of my memorable experiences with dance:
Last year, I volunteered at an orphanage for physically challenged children as part of a service club at school. There, it was my first time seeing dance being used for therapeutic purposes and I was immediately drawn to the field of movement therapy. I loved seeing dance help children find their confidence in self-expression, much like how I first started to gain confidence when I learnt to physically express emotions like frustration that were too difficult to express verbally. It was also intriguing to see dance increase their awareness of the environment and improve their coordination on a purely physical level.
One of the most memorable experiences I had with dance was managing a Zumba class as an after school activity in 2015. I was first introduced to Zumba at the age of 12 when I joined a Latin dance club at school and to me, the idea of incorporating dance into a workout was fascinating – it was everything I loved in a nutshell: dance and fitness. Managing the club was not an easy job given that I only had a year of experience with this particular type of dance but nonetheless, I was dedicated and motivated to keep the club alive for as long as I could. I was willing to spend an hour each night choreographing and researching how certain moves target certain muscles, during what was already a gruelling night of homework and studies, because I loved seeing people find joy in simply moving their body, the same way that I do.
I love to choreograph since it’s where I can put my skills, passion, and imagination into one thing, and I feel like the best version of myself when I’m choreographing 🙂 It’s how I go places I have never been before – it’s almost like how people feel when traveling spontaneously without knowing where they would end up. Sometimes I feel my brain in chaos and the only way to de-stress is by daydreaming about choreography. It’s one of the reasons I have problems sitting still in class too. 🙂
I don’t remember when exactly I started choreographing but I do remember the exact moment in my life where I felt that choreographing was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In 8th grade, I started my own Youtube channel where I decided to upload videos of my choreographies for other people to watch and learn from. I started off with a very small audience but I now have 15,000 views in total and one of my most viewed video is a dance I choreographed for my anti-bullying project. Back then, I had zero technique and barely any training in dance choreography but seeing people appreciate my choreographies and reading through thoughtful feedback was so heartening and encouraging and it inspired me to upload more and more videos.
Uploading my choreographies on youtube was also what drove me to start teaching dance. In 9th grade I started little dance sessions after school for anyone who wanted to dance – my lessons did not include any particular technique training – we just danced for the sake of having fun. I then started choreographing a few routines for Dance Company and I started to fall in love with the intimacy I created with people in the process of teaching choreographies. And I loved the feeling of getting excited and moved by other dancers’ interpretation of my own choreography.
Over the last few years of dance training and choreographing, I’ve learned that listening to the body is so much more meaningful than telling it what to do. Choreographing allows me to experience the pleasure of working with other passionate dancers and I couldn’t imagine my life without dance. 🙂 Of all the experiences I’ve ever had as a dancer for 11 years, I value those moments when I had the opportunity to learn from other dancers the most. Sometimes I would find myself admiring another dancer for their control over their arabesques and grand battement at the barre and although dancers are often encouraged to seek competition only in themselves, I find the cooperation as well as the competition that comes from working with other dancers as great motivators for developing my skills and attitude as a dancer. The discipline, dedication and determination I developed in dance are skills that have extended to other areas of my life such as my studies at school.