The RIDGE sits down with the young dancer and recipient of the NAC Management Scholarship, Jocelyn Loong Hui Ting, for an exclusive interview on what has shaped her strong calling in the arts.
The RIDGE (TR): When did you first pick up dance?
Jocelyn (JL): I first started in Primary One, but I did a different genre then.
TR: Oh, what did you switch from?
JL: I started with ballet but I think that as you grow older and have more contact with the arts you might find yourself wanting to explore other genres such as contemporary dance, modern dance or hip hop.
TR: How did you start off with ballet then, was it something that your parents pushed you into?
JL: Oh, my school offered it to me as a paid CCA. So it was actually more of a convenience, I guess, but from what I can remember my mom actually mentioned that I did not want to go for it at first. She felt it was a good thing to push for though, saying something about how girls and ballet go well together. (smiles)
TR: Are you still doing ballet now or are you specialising in another genre instead?
JL: Hm, I wouldn’t really say specialise… I’m teaching at a primary school for the moment so that doesn’t really require me to do a specific genre. However, I am still currently doing ballet in NUS Dance.
TR: What do you teach at the primary school then?
JL: I did teach ballet for a period of time but currently I’m doing modern dance. Actually, it depends more on what the school wants. If they request something like salsa, for example, then I would try to incorporate a few elements of that into the class.
TR: Do you enjoy teaching there?
JL: Of course! I’m teaching the lower levels so the kids are really cute. (grins)
TR: It says here that you’re a recipient of the NAC Management Scholarship. What are some of the responsibilities involved in being its recipient?
JL: I would have to say that NAC has been more or less lenient with me. Most of my responsibility involves more in making sure that I maintain my CAP, so that would be my main concern. They count it on a year-by-year basis so though, so it gives me a little bit of leeway to explore the arts. I don’t just have to concentrate on my studies. There’s quite a good amount of freedom there in that sense. They did offer me an internship over the holidays so I would go back there to work for them if I can.
TR: Can you tell me some of the opportunities that the scholarship has managed to open up for you?
JL: I look at their 4-year bond as an opportunity to continue working in the arts scene. It would have been more difficult to do that if I simply graduate as an NUS student without the bond. It provides a very good opening. Apart from that, there was the awards ceremony the NAC held with the recipients and this helped expose me to the other arts practitioners out there too. There were some who were interested in very specialised forms of arts, things that I didn’t even know existed, so that was great.
I could be dancing something like the chicken dance, but if it’s with people who are passionate and there’s a good teacher, I still wouldn’t mind.
TR: There’s always been a sort of stigma attached to the arts in Singapore. Certainly, this has eased off compared to the past, but what are your thoughts on this?
JL: I still do experience that now. For example, whenever I mention NAC everyone will always ask me what the acronym means. It’s just not as well known. However, I’ve always thought that the arts scene wasn’t dead to begin with. It’s there. It’s just unrecognised and it’s up to you to jump into that pool.
TR: As a dancer is there anything in particular that you do to prep yourself before you get out there on stage?
JL: Yep, I usually make sure I at least have a minute alone to visualise the dance from start till end, including all the steps and any potential troubles that might happen. Say, if the lights malfunction or something, what would I do so I don’t get caught off-guard or panic. I will walk myself through the item.
TR: Is there a favourite dance or performance so far? One that stood out in particular for you?
JL: That’s difficult to say, but I’ve enjoyed working more under certain people because of the styles they work with and the way they teach… The way they carry themselves, I guess. It’s more about the journey and the people I dance with than anything else.
TR: So it depends more on the surroundings for you?
JL: Yes, a lot. I could be dancing something like the chicken dance, but if it’s with people who are passionate and there’s a good teacher, I still wouldn’t mind.
TR: Have you received any valuable advice from a good teacher then?
JL: My choreographer once said when you’re dancing: Don’t think about anything else. Don’t let anything distract you from what you’re doing – not your home, your handphone, or anything else. You should be whole hearted and commit yourself to the full 100%. Only when you’re able to do that would the time be worth it.
TR: Any parting words for all the arts practitioners out there?
JL: Yes, a lot actually. (laughs) But I’ll try to control myself. I would have to say that it really is a journey, and if you start it with the right frame of mind, it won’t hurt you as badly when you get negative comments or criticism. I feel that for the performing arts, especially, there can be a lot of jealousy involved and the field can get quite nasty. Certainly, this is because all of the practitioners are passionate and they’re all vying for the leading role. They want to put themselves in a better position. This might be disheartening for younger artists though, so I always make sure to remind my juniors that so long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, there’s no need to care about what other people say. You can be chucked in the corner of the room, but if you’re passionate, you can still feel happy. Even if you don’t dance all that well, it doesn’t matter so long as you feel you yourself have grown as a better person.
For more information about the National Arts Council Scholarship programme, visit NAC website or send your queries to NAC_Scholarship@nac.gov.sg.