In 2020, I received my very first scholarship from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. I am honoured to say I have continued to be a recipient in the following years, and below you can read a minor Q&A they conducted at the end of 2020.
What are your earliest memories of dance?
My mom says that I’ve been dancing since I could walk. Whenever a song was on I’d move around and always try following along with ballerinas on television. I remember my mom bought me dance-along DVDs that came with a little plastic ballet barre that was probably no higher than one foot, as well as a dance mat showing different ballet positions.
Who are your biggest supporters?
My family has always been there for me. They want me to pursue my passions and reach for my dreams. They’ve always given me the most support throughout my life, and I’m thankful for everything they’ve done and everything they continue to do for me.
What has been your greatest challenge in relation to dance? Why?
One thing I constantly struggle with in dance is my perfectionism and tendency to be too hard on myself. Because of how seriously I take dance and how much I care about it, I often forget that it’s what brings me joy and what I should allow myself to do freely; instead I often end up stressing over little things and getting upset with myself for no reason. Lately, I’ve been practising letting myself go and doing what comes naturally as opposed to what is “right”. As much as dance is a sport with technique and proper executions, it’s also an art form for me to tell my own story and convey my feelings.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years, in relation to dance?
I want to still be training and learning constantly in 5 years, as that never ends. I want to be teaching, creating, performing … honestly, I just want to keep dancing. Maybe in a few years I won’t be the professional dancer I dream of, but I always want dance to be in my life as it truly is a part of myself that I don’t want to lose.
Are there any unexpected positives that have come out of pandemic related to dance?
Yes! It was difficult at the beginning of the pandemic. The space I had for dancing at home was small and crowded, and with everything being online Zoom calls, there would often be direction mishaps and lag/glitches. It caused a lot of stress and just felt awful for the first weeks of quarantine. I wasn’t motivated to do much and anytime I tried, it felt hopeless. Soon, after connecting with people and figuring things out, I got into the swing of things and found the positives in online learning. I also learned how important it can be to take time for myself. Quarantine gave me a lot of time to think and settle into myself. Understanding my goals and priorities for the future ended up changing my plans for this fall and it’s turned out well! I’ve grown in many ways this year and I’m extremely happy with how I’ve progressed.
How have you managed practicing dance during the pandemic?
Since the pandemic, an abundance of online classes have been available from all around the world! I’ve been able to take workshops and classes from some of my biggest inspirations and renowned dancers and choreographers such as Jake Kodish, Anthony Vibal, Neil Shwartz, Logan “Logistx” Edra, and Bo Park. And since so many dancers came back to their hometown during the pandemic, I’ve been able to meet and learn directly from amazingly talented dancers who came from Halifax as well!
This fall, I was accepted into an online dance program for choreographers, creators, teachers, and leaders run by Bo Park! The program ran for five weeks and we were given choreography assignments each week along with Bo’s own combos to learn and get feedback on. One of the most amazing parts of the program was a weekly session when Bo would tell us her experiences in the industry to give us advice and information from her point of view. Everyone in the program also shared their own experiences and feedback. It was amazing learning from someone as remarkable as Bo Park and to share and connect with so many incredible dancers from around the world!
What quote best describes your commitment to dance? Why?
“We’re all afraid, you know… to get up on stage. Maybe you’ll mess up. Maybe they’ll totally reject you. Even so, you grit your teeth and get up on stage anyway.” – Kaori Miyazono
Dance is such a vulnerable art form and it can be so scary to perform in front of people – even if it’s not on stage, only in class. It can be a terrifying thought that you could be rejected for being yourself … that maybe you’re imperfect and nobody will like you. I’m trying to learn how to let go of some of these fears and dance for the sake of dancing, with all its vulnerability and honesty.
Who are your mentors and how have they influenced your dance career?
I’ve been blessed to have some amazing, special mentors who care about me and whom I truly look up to more than anyone.
Kim Roper at Northside Dance in Cape Breton was my first mentor and helped light my joy of dance aflame. Even though I was so young, she gave me a lot of work to do and made sure I was always pushing myself.
My past mentors Barbara Dearborn and Diana Rutherford, who taught me ballet at the Conservatory School of Dance, were fully aware that my passion and skills were much bigger than ballet and always encouraged me to continue with other styles and embrace and work on my choreographic abilities.
Abady Alzahrani, founder and director of House of Eights Dance Studio, has given me so many opportunities and so much guidance. I’m truly grateful for everything he does for me.
Kathleen Doherty of Votive Dance is a jazz and contemporary instructor who’s taught me for over three years. She’s helped me numerous times with my choreographic growth and supports me in all that I do. She’s been a huge influence in my movement both artistically and stylistically.
Nick Nguyen is a B-boy who has been mentoring me for over three years. He’s always pushed me to my limits and encourages me to think of myself highly, instead of putting myself down. He’s given me an abundance of teaching opportunities in the hip hop community as well as so much knowledge and inspiration. He’s always trying to get me to tap into my creativity and test my freestyling skills. And he’s always there for me when I need him.
Zomi Tombing is a teacher, choreographer, and dancer with House of Eights. She’s been mentoring me and supporting me for over a year now. Her style of dance is so innovative and raw – it’s one of my favorite styles to learn and cultivate. She’s always encouraging me to get out of my shell, to go for it and to explore my own personal style. She gives me never ending support and is always there for me as a friend; she’s the one who told me to apply for the online choreography program, where I got to meet Bo Park as a new and incredible mentor from New York.
What does receiving a Talent Trust scholarship mean to you?
Besides making it possible to attend a summer program and the House of Eights Training Program this year, it means so much to me to know that the NSTT is supporting my dreams and believes in me as a dancer. I’ve always had people supporting me, but it means a lot to know that I have an organization behind me, rooting for me and encouraging me that I’m on the right path. Again, thank you so much for believing in me as a dancer, an artist, and a person.