How old were you when you started ballet?

I was four when I started learning ballet in Kindergarten, and I moved to Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) at the age of six.

What was the first ballet you ever saw?

The first ballet I watched was Nutcracker, when I was 10. It was Anthony Then’s version of it by the Singapore Dance Theatre. I was supposed to be performing in it, but I dislocated my elbow and could only watch it.

When did you decide to pursue a professional career?

I liked dancing, but I wasn’t majorly interested in ballet until I performed as a Snowflake in Nutcracker with the company when I was 13. It was the first time I saw what company class was like!

I also remember the Sugar Plum Fairy trying to master her diagonal fouetté turns during rehearsals, and it was not only till the performance that she perfected them. I was watching in the wings then, and as cliché as it sounds, it was really there and then that I felt inspired to want to pursue ballet as a professional career. I realised that you can do anything when you work hard and put your heart to it.

When and where did you start your training, and did you enjoy it?

I started my training at the Central School of Ballet when I was 18. I really enjoyed it. We had great teachers who had a lot of experience, and imparted so much knowledge. Being in London was a big plus too as the arts scene is so vibrant.

When we got to third year, we were part of the Ballet Central, which is a student touring company. We had the opportunity to experience what it is like to dance and travel throughout the United Kingdom. We adjusted our repertoire to suit the different sized stages and learnt the technicalities behind it all, like knowing how to properly lay the dance floor. It was a huge learning curve.

When and how did you join SDT?

I joined SDT as an apprentice in January 2011, but before that I did a season of Sleeping Beauty with SDT in 2010. Being from SBA, I’d worked a lot with SDT and had the opportunity to take SDT’s company classes before I left for London. The last season I did before I went to London was Legacy of Goh Choo San in 2007. Janek Schergen came to stage all the works, and that was when I got to know him. Fortunately after I graduated, Janek offered me a place in SDT.

What was your first role in SDT as a professional dancer?

When I came back from London in 2010, my first role was dancing as one of the swans in Act II of SwanLake in September 2010. That is by far still the most nerve-wrecking performance for me. One of the dancers injured her foot on the performance day, and all the female dancers were already part of the cast. So Janek asked me if I could go in for her, and I had to learn the ballet in the theatre hours before the performance, and could only catch glimpses of the other dancers across the stage. Chihiro kept shouting out the steps for me from behind as I was the first in line!

My first role as an apprentice was Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Juliet in 2011.

How do you learn a ballet?

It depends on who is staging the ballet, different choreographers have different ways of working. Classical repertoires are usually easier to learn and stage than contemporary ones.

We usually learn the steps first, then we mark it through once and work out the spacing and positioning. It’s easier when you are learning a solo, compared to learning with a large corp. We then stop at every point that has to be fixed, and then move on to the next bit. Eventually, we do “runs” nearer the performance where we go through the entire dance without any pauses in it to get a feel of how the whole ballet will be like. There can also be rehearsals where a certain section of the ballet is chosen to be worked on and you can slowly find and put your own interpretation to the work.

What is a typical rehearsal day like?

I usually reach work at 9am to prepare for our daily class at 10am for an hour and a half. We begin rehearsal from 11.30am to 5.30pm with an hour lunch break. Depending on what you are casted for, we do get breaks if we are not part of that particular ballet.

During my breaks, I do some stretching, roll out my muscles because they tend to tighten quite easily. Sometimes, we would go for a walk around or run errands if we have a slightly longer break.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

It depends on the role I’m dancing, if it’s a part that is more stressful, I don’t really like being around too many people. If not, I am relaxed otherwise. I don’t like going out for dinner on performance days as it puts my mind in a lot of places, so I usually buy my dinner in. I prefer to start putting on my make-up and doing my hair early as I feel that it is somewhat therapeutic, and I don’t like rushing before a show. I will then head to the stage to warm up and get a feel of the stage. I will also try out steps that always seem to give me problems, and choose the shoes I’m going to wear.

What do you eat on a big rehearsal/performance day?

I like feeling light on stage, so not too heavy a meal, but a good and balanced meal with a hot drink would be enough to give me the energy.

Bananas do the trick, especially when I’m really tired. I found out that it helps me to calm my nerves when I was doing SwanLake. I ate a banana between each act because it is so tiring for the girls!

What is your dream role?

Queen of the Willis in Giselle, as I like to jump and love traveling across the stage. I really like her personality and the soulful music too. I’d also love to be able to do David Dawson’s A Million Kisses to My Skin and works by Kyllan. But honestly, I want to dance as many different roles as I can.

What is your favourite costume so far?

Definitely not Fate in Romeo and Juliet (laughs), but I really enjoyed dancing the role as it was the first time it drew so much emotions out of me. It almost felt I was in a different world, and it was a great feeling to be giving so much. Generally I like costumes that are longer, and can cover my legs. I feel less conscious about it. One of my favourites would have to be Organ Concerto.

Who is your favourite choreographer in the works you’ve danced?

Nils Christe and Annegian Sneep have got to be one of my favourite choreographers I’ve worked with. Great people and really great work.

Do you watch ballets from the wings?

Yes, all the time! Especially if you are on Cast B or an understudy, I like watching my colleagues dance, and smiling at them from the wings. The only time I don’t watch is when I have a role that I’m nervous about.

How do you feel after a performance?

Tired, but not lethargic. I’m always happy when I perform, there is always a sense of achievement after each performance unless of course it didn’t go well.

What do you like to do outside of SDT?

I usually hang out with my closest friends quite a lot. I’ve a close group of school friends from MGS, so we go out for meals, movies, and even sleepovers. I’m also really close to my parents and sisters, so I like spending time with them at home too.

Do you have a “guilty pleasure”?

Good coffees and massages. This is life!

Are most of your friends dancers?

It is only normal that a lot of them are dancers, but not all of them. My closest group of friends is still my schoolmates.

What is your most prized possession?

I don’t really have a prized possession, but I like keeping notes and cards, and taking photographs to keep memories. If I had to pick my “prized possession”, it would definitely be my sisters, my closest friends, and God!

How does your family feel about your career?

There was resistance from my parents initially because they did not know if I could make a career out of ballet. I was doing quite well at school and they wanted me to excel in a different path. However, all they really want now is for their children to be happy, so they are really supportive of me, my decisions and my career.

What do you want to do after dancing?

At the moment, I think I want to be a physiotherapist for dancers, because there is a shortage of that here.