Long before K-Pop acts have risen to the top of global dance charts or High School Musical hit the big screens, I was brought up on a diet of dance films and musicals, courtesy of a beloved dance-loving grandfather. If you don’t know Top Hat which starred the hottest dance duo at the time, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, (I know, I know, totally too old-school for most of you). Then how about Gene Kelly with Carrie Fisher’s mom Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ In The Rain?
What about Wall-E bobbing to his precious VCR tape recording of the musical Hello Dolly, (which was one of my all-time favourites too!). Then finally, we’ve both found something we could move to 💃.
The one thing all these dance films or musicals have in common – besides all the singing, is the spine-tinglingly amazing, beautifully-choreographed dancing. These scenes are why I’ve always been my heart’s desire and long-time dream to learn to sing and dance. So ask yourself this: Have you ever been so touched by a film or a song that it fills you with a desire to not just move but to really want to learn and possibly master that particular dance? I’m pretty sure Wall-E and I aren’t the only ones!
You Don’t Have to be Physically Ideal or Talented to Enjoy Dancing
Tap. Ballet. Jazz. Modern. In my mind, all dance forms looked so effortless and hence must be easy to pick up. But my grandpa explained that possibly thousands of hours of practice, rehearsal, strength, and technique would have been invested by those same dancers to finally be shown and featured on-screen. I was floored to say the least. But still totally stoke that I begged my mom all those years ago to sign me up to learn any type of dance – as long as I could be given the space to move and express myself.
So off I went to enroll in a ‘serious’ dance school (which is still operational today!) to sign up. Only to be told that I was too old and that I appeared to be too big-boned and heavy (aka not bodily ideal) for the only type of dance available at the school – ballet.
As parents, we should teach our children to have an indomitable spirit, that even if one may not be physically cut out for a skill or hobby, but if you truly enjoy it, then that skill or hobby is definitely worth pursuing. Some or should I say, most of us would probably never have the opportunity/time to learn to be ballerinas, but if we enjoy the learning process and most of all, the experience of learning and dancing, then that’s all that matters. (In the end however, I took up singing and piano! I was rather stung by the rejection after all 😭).
Backstage Access: Featuring Luminous Dance Academy’s Miria Baek
That’s the same perception that 9-year-old Miria Baek has of the after-school activity she’s chosen to invest her time in. She dances primarily for fun. You don’t need to be young though, to learn to dance. And we figure the very best way to pick up dance again is for you to hear it from someone who’s fallen in love with it so much that she’s fast becoming a protégé and principal young dancer of her dance school. And what’s even more amazing is she doesn’t have a certificate to show for it.
The slender Miria who’s a student of the United World College South-East Asia in Dover (UWCSEA) was first introduced to dance when she was 4. However, it didn’t come together for her until she was enrolled in a unique dance school – Luminous Dance Academy, where it doesn’t follow any standard syllabus like that of the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) examination board or the CSTD (The Commonwealth Society of Teachers of Dancing); the 2 most recognised and prestigious dance standards conducted in Singapore.
Rather, the school’s lessons are based on the expertise and experience their teachers bring to the school. Its focus is centered on expression and the founders’ belief for dance to be a fun addition for students who would want to learn and enjoy it, and not a source of stress.
Miria’s been considered a ‘senior’ student having danced for more than 5 years now and to have mastered techniques and skills enabling her to win not just one but two medals, from the Concours International De Danse Classique De Grasse. Miria has done this without going through the traditional exams and certification. In fact, she’s so naturally inclined for dance that she dedicates some 6 hours every day for 6 days out of a week at the Academy.
“I don’t do it for achieving any certificate in Dance. I’m doing it entirely for fun, and I really, really enjoy it! When I started in ballet, I was about 4 and to be frank I remember I didn’t really enjoy it all that much then. I continued dance in another school; but it’s not until Luminous that I really think that I was bit by the dancing bug.”
Miria’s mom, Mirei pointed out that she and Miria’s father took time out to look for a non-RAD syllabus based dance school in Singapore, which are far and few in between. Enter Luminous Dance Academy, which focuses more on expression and the joy of dance.
“I like ballet but sometimes you just need to have the right teacher. I’m blessed that at my school we do. I’m learning like different types of dance so that helps keep my interest piqued. I learn ballet, jazz, and contemporary. I especially like jazz because we get to learn some cool tricks like cartwheels, and rolls, and stuff.
Sometimes at the end of class, my teacher just puts on music and the students, we’ll just choreograph it ourselves. And we can choose to do it in groups or solo (dance). There’s just this freedom of expression that I really enjoy. And sometimes when I feel a bit tired, it really helps that we can improvise and do our own thing. I really love that part of the lesson!”
“Every year the school organizes a recital, so all of us get a chance to perform. That is really fun and something all of us look forward to but what I really like also is to go for competitions, so like me and a few other girls are preparing for a competition this June in Singapore. So there are many things about dance that make it enjoyable but we all look forward to performing, to show everyone what we’ve been working so hard on.”
Embrace Your Individuality and Uniqueness
Ballet or dance in general has become so mainstream now that there are actually derived exercises called Barre exercises which are all the rage. Barre exercise is a form of exercise derived from the traditional dance form (of ballet) as it incorporates the use of a ballet barre. Physical movements and positions combined with other equipment such as resistance bands and weights. These movements help to develop lean muscle tone, such as that seen on a ballerina and barre exercises help improve strength, posture, balance and muscle definition.
The first African-American principal ballerina at the prestigious American Ballet Company, Misty Copeland said in a Refinery29 interview that it’s incredible that people are looking at dancers’ bodies as healthy, because that hasn’t always been the case. “For us to be in this moment and have (people) want to have a strong, lean, feminine body – I think it’s amazing.” As Miria herself has pointed out, “When I was little I was like a tyrannosaurus, I was really bad with my fitness. But now that I’ve done it quite a fair bit, I feel a lot more flexible and definitely stronger too.”
On top of dance, Miria wants to pursue her other loves – music, as she’s learning to play the violin; art, one of her all-time favourite subjects, PE (physical education) PLUS reading. So it’s possible to indulge in dance, music and art, read and to be fit at the same time. (Oh, to be young again!)
When asked if she could see herself doing professional dance when she’s older, she only has this to say, “It’s really hard for me to think about dancing when I’m older, because I really want to try a lot of things. But more importantly, I believe that anything is possible when you listen to your heart.” So like 80-year old Brazilian Helio Haus who has been learning ballet for as long as Miria has – 5 years! – all it takes is courage and conviction to recognize what your heart is telling you. Bravo Miria!
“…there’s nothing more freeing than dancing like a fool or not so foolish when no one is watching!” so says Laura Lifshitz, dance mommy editor of Popsugar.com.
So….shall we dance?
Learn dance while having fun with Tueetor’s Premium Partner Luminous Dance Academy which is a fully-equipped artistic academy with 2 dance studios in the heart of Orchard Road. Luminous is the first ever CID-UNESCO (Conseil International de la Danse or the International Dance Council/the United Nations of Dance) appointed dance school in Singapore. Luminous is led by a team of international dance teachers headed by a professor from the prestigious Paris Opera. For more information on Luminous Dance Academy, visit https://tueetor.com/luminousdanceacademy or call 6235 3087. Written by wannabe dancer Cecilia Leong.