Surviving Covid, Dancing Through It

As much as we’re recovering from the pandemic, it undoubtedly put a halt to normalcy and a strain on full-time creatives. We speak with five performers and choreographers about their woes, mental states and manoeuvring through COVID-19 as a dancer.

When the deadly pandemic hit the shores of Singapore, it severely affected the lives of every resident. And for the creatives in our dance community, it was no different. Events and competitions were cancelled; classes had to come to a halt as our studios closed down temporarily. Some faced retrenchment or had to give up dancing for a while. At that point, before and during Circuit Breaker, it felt indefinite.

Today, COVID-19 is more contained and no longer as frightening as it was two years ago. As regulations start to slowly ease up and we adopt a brand new lifestyle of obligatory masks and social distancing, we start to have a glimpse into the life that could be.

For our dance community, the journey from then to now was no small feat. On the topic of life as a creative pre-covid as compared to now, we spoke with five experienced dancers, performers and choreographers.

Taking it further online

It came as no surprise when dance studios shut down along with all other shops, services and schools. Some full-time dance instructors had to find alternative ways to stay afloat or ‘breakeven’. In the age of new and high technology, they turned to Zoom.

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Singaporean dance instructor Yi Liang, who teaches full-time at Danz People, was “lucky enough to still be able to earn during the pandemic”. She shared that though the switch to digital was swift, it was a lot of hard work. Several unexpected changes occurred — the little red dot saw new and revised restrictions pop up every so now and then. The studio’s instructors had to adapt quickly in order to ‘work around rules’ and continue the business.

Online classes work. But the humanistic and personable elements of a physical dance class cannot be entirely replaced by technology. It’s a unique type of intimacy you get from human interactions and being in the present.

Bouncing Back

For 31-year-old Syazwan Rahmad, COVID-19 took a toll on both his mental state and financials. As a full-time choreographer and freelance performer, any form of income from shows and events were eradicated. According to his feature on CNA Insider, Syazwan was set to perform in The Singapore Police Force bicentennial musical and Vote Kumar by theatre company Dream Academy, both of which were cancelled. The spirited performer especially struggled during the Circuit Breaker when he fell into depression.

Courtesy of Syazwan Rahmad

Eventually, Syazwan took a turn for the better and decided to keep choosing dance as his career. “I’ve been doing it for 17 years and I don’t want to waste any more time. I wanted to change my job, but I want to dance for as long as I can,” he enthused.

Having previously conducted private classes on ‘Syazwan Series’, the homegrown dancer further developed his brand and became more established. Prior to Covid, Syazwan has performed for countless local events and represented Singapore overseas in New Zealand, Shanghai, Bangkok and Korea. As the industry gets more accustomed to current conditions, he looks forward to performing live with larger audiences as well as his longtime dream of choreographing for international artists on tours.

Explorations And Expansions

Hailing from Bangkok, Thailand, Eugene Methrujpanont Ho took the waves of lockdowns and working from home as opportunities. He shifted his perspective and started thinking beyond his comfort zone — making time for self-learning, drilling and training, as well as learning of new genres on global online platforms.

“I began to see the advantage of learning from choreographers overseas that we rarely had the chance to previously. Other than dance I also took time to learn new skills such as video and music editing,” said Eugene.

Now, the 31-year-old choreographer, one-half of the award-winning Euhojojo pair, is still pushing to create more work. Eugene will be showcasing his craft on various platforms and hopes for it to “make an impact in the scene”.

Euhojojo. Courtesy of Ming, Singapore Dance Delight Vol. 7

As for Functional Rehab Coach and Movement Artist Hafeez Hassan, the Coronavirus disease shifted his active, dance life “from being a performer to being a dance educator”. The 38-year-old local dancer says, “Since I’m a certified fitness coach, I am lucky to have my own pool of clientele to train and have other skill sets to work in gyms like F45.”

Additionally, Hafeez has focused his artistic journey towards an interdisciplinary approach by going into acting and singing too. Exploring in Silat, Hip Hop and Contemporary styles, the movement artist expresses gratitude for being able to still do what he loves: create, perform and teach.

Courtesy of Hafeez Hassan

As for Functional Rehab Coach and Movement Artist Hafeez Hassan, the Coronavirus disease shifted his active, dance life “from being a performer to being a dance educator”. The 38-year-old local dancer says, “Since I’m a certified fitness coach, I am lucky to have my own pool of clientele to train and have other skill sets to work in gyms like F45.”

Additionally, Hafeez has focused his artistic journey towards an interdisciplinary approach by going into acting and singing too. Exploring in Silat, Hip Hop and Contemporary styles, the movement artist expresses gratitude for being able to still do what he loves: create, perform and teach.

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Meanwhile, Norhamidah Bte Abd Hamid, also known as Edastitch, made the best out of the situation. She was ready for the lockdown and before being retrenched from her previous job, she took the time to rest her mind and body. Although she feels virtual lessons are not the most productive, she salutes the community for finding any means to survive.

The 31-year-old Singaporean talent misses doing dance productions — like Syazwan, she was involved in a production that had to be cancelled.

“Seeing other events that managed to pull through makes me envious of them. Maybe someday another opportunity will come up for me,” Edastitch tells us.

In reminiscing the dance life pre-covid, the Hip Hop dancer mentioned fun times in huge dance battle events like *SCAPE Radikal Forze Jam and Turnt Up by BQN. She adds: “I’m looking forward to travelling overseas for dance purposes like how it used to be before.”

Courtesy of Radikal Forze, Recognize Studios and Jazpar Photography

Our Verdict

We all know that situations are unpredictable and the only constant in an ever-changing world is, well, change. Having witnessed the world being jerked around by the pandemic or seen our fellow residents scramble and panic, can we really look forward to a better future? Well, personally, as someone who relocated to Singapore at the age of 15 where everything really was and still is possible…I will say that I do believe. We see parts of the world recovering and Singapore, especially the dance scene, is not excluded from it. Soon after, we’ll be thinking of and treating COVID-19 like all previous outbreaks and dare I say, even like the common flu.

Here at Dreamfellas, we’re expecting new and exciting dance events, as well as even more enthusiasm from our dancers. I’m sure, like how we’re hoping to head out maskless with friends and travel freely again, we’re all anticipating that for the dance scene as well. Just think: racing hearts during competitions, the thrill of dancing on stage before thousands of fascinated onlookers and revels in packed, bustling dance festivals.

Courtesy of Vibrvncy, ARENA Dance Competition

So, what’s your take on this?

In other exciting news, our dance initiative has officially launched last month! Happening every Saturday night via 90-minute classes, Fellas’ Night aims to continuously push individuality in choreographers with diverse styles and flavours.

Find out more about our current lineup here. Come through and groove with us!

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