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April 2021: Xin Hui Ong
Tell us a bit about your work and practice.
I am an emerging contemporary choreographer. My approach to movement creation is very much inspired by my dancers. I am very attracted to the way people move because it tells you so much about how they approach life.
Choreography is like making a cake. The cake has layers of philosophies, concepts, themes, emotions, narratives, personalities, social dynamics, with dance, music, and staging as the icing.
I also teach. Whilst a performance can be an incredibly powerful way to move an audience, I find teaching to be the highest expression of dance. You perform for an intimate group of people, who can deeply appreciate and respect the effort and mastery it takes to execute the steps. Seeing and supporting others to develop mastery and experience joy is very rewarding. Some of my biggest influences and inspirations in life have been my dance teachers.
What three core values drive your engagement with dance?
First and foremost, authenticity. Dance connects you to a very real version of who you are. They say in yoga that you practice yoga, not to get better at yoga, but to get better at life. I think the same is true for dance. How you live every day, how mindful you are, how truthful you are, how loving you are; it all comes out in the studio. It can feel very vulnerable knowing that you are so exposed. But it is also freeing, opening you up to the discourse of who you really are, even if that’s not always who you’d like to be, or who you think you are.
Second, minimalism. If poetry is the economy of words, then dance, for me, is the economy of movement. I am constantly researching the most efficient way to move and communicate in my work.
Definitely not practicality! So, passion!
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for about two decades now, with breaks in between.
I remember when I was maybe 5 years old, I had a bad fall and hit my face just here [points to my right eyebrow]. I had to go to hospital to have it stitched up. I have this vivid memory of my parents teaching me how to break a fall with my hands first, rather than face-planting, on their queen-sized bed. My mum put me into ballet lessons shortly after that, but I hated it. I begged her to quit, but she enrolled me again when I was 8, as I still hadn’t grown out of being very uncoordinated, and didn’t have good posture. I had a couple of very inspiring ballet teachers and fell deeply in love with ballet. I declared that I was to be ‘married’ to it, and worked very hard.
Sadly, when I ‘came of age’ (around 16, when people decide whether or not they want to go into pre-professional training), I got cold feet. I took a prolonged hiatus, over a decade, to take a more ‘sensible’ path. That whole time, I secretly felt like a piece of me had died, and when I reconnected with dance again, I realized that I couldn’t possibly give it up. If I could give a piece of advice to my younger self, it would have been: follow your heart and don’t overthink things!
How would you describe dance’s impact on your life?
There is an ephemeral moment of connection, joy, and hope when I dance, or make dance. I think that is accessible to everyone
What would you say are the most significant benefits to being a Dance Centre member?
The Dance Centre has created a space for dancers, with its great programming, and affordable studio rental rates for members; a space to create, to connect, and that is of tremendous value.
Interested in becoming a Dance Centre Member? Learn more here
Photos by David Cooper