The following article was written by my good friend, Li Yon. Li Yon is a creative and hard-working dancer; I have worked with him on many projects, performances, and concept videos. A dual-major in Business Admin and International Business and Management, Li Yon highlights on the importance of surrounding yourself with people who share your vision in order to improve in your art.
To all my dancing friends out there, I just got one thing to say – “Once a dancer, Always a dancer.” I know the title of my article is a little misleading, but rest assured that when I said that “my journey as a dancer ended”, is based on a much larger point of view.
I get asked a lot if I am still dancing, how long would I be dancing or if I would do anything out of this dance passion. This article will answer the question.
For those of you who do not know me personally, dance is one of my biggest passions in life and this is my dance story.
Growing up as an introvert, I realized that art is the best form of expression. And I’m a firm believer that the most beautiful form of art, is always personal.
As such, I constantly needed a platform for me to express my deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions and my love for dance started from the love of music.
When I was a kid, there will be days where I crossed my parents or times where my parents would get on my nerves for the most trivial things and I’m sure this is the case for most of you guys out there when you’re young. During my teenage days, I began to gain interest in hip-hop/rap music because of its raw expression. (I need to make a point to mention that the hip-hop or rap music I listened to is nothing like what you hear on the radio today) I liked it so much, whenever I feel down or angry in the day I would just write lyrics and rap to it. And I remembered it felt so good after that.
I used to write pretty good rap lyrics that even my friends thought that I had the potential to become a rap star not to mention I was pretty good in rapping myself.
Fast forward to a few years, I found dance. And ever since then I knew I was going to be dancing for a very long time.
My first ever choreography was by Ne-yo – Be On You.
I’ve always been casually dancing for the longest time but I only started taking dance seriously at the age of 16 – during my days in high school. There will be dance classes every week taught by a hip-hop instructor in my school as an extra-curricular activity and I would be in every class religiously. It came to a point where once a week was not enough, and I would dance after school, go home, play the music and continued dancing even more. My first ever choreography was by Ne-yo – Be On You. It was supposed to be used as a performance during my school’s appreciation day and my friends and I practiced it for weeks. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to do it because there wasn’t enough time to slot us in as another performance.
As I moved to college, I was pretty sure I was the only one from the circle of my friends in high school that is still dancing until this very day. At the time, it felt like a calling. I was determined to pursue dance as a potential career and this affected my studies heavily. Because the amount of time I devoted to dance was so much, I neglected all time allocated for my education – approximately 6 to 8 hours every day of the week except weekends.
If dance is a woman, I’d be married to her right now.
When I was in college, I knew the existence of the dance club but I was too shy and afraid to join it because I know how hostile the dance scene can be especially if you’re alone and if you do not know anybody in there. However, I knew one person I was close to who happened to be the president of the dance club during that intake. His name is Shane.
Shane brought me into the dance club after I dropped out of college, 6 months into the program. Because he believed in me, he insisted that I join the club and he did everything he could to convince me to be a part of the big family. So, I trusted him and turn myself up one fine day. It was one of the best decisions I made in life.
The people in the club were extremely welcoming and they made up approximately 60% of the entire friends I have on Facebook and as my long-term contacts. My self-esteem grew as everyone in the club liked the way I danced and appreciated my presence. I felt like a superstar and I remembered that day like it was yesterday and every time I was there I danced my heart out hoping that I could inspire people to do the same style I did which was Urban Choreography, and that day ultimately came because everybody was interested to dance the style.
To help you understand how it felt like: –
Imagine me as Keanu Reeves in the Matrix and my friend as Morpheus who gave me enlightening and recruited me to the crew. And everyone was staring at me like I was the “One”
Over the years, I’ve met many dancers and people in and out of the campus – competitions, performances, crew recruitments, mutual friends and connections, annual dinner performances, etc. I slowly came to realized that in-order to survive in this dance scene specifically in Malaysia, it required me to become a completely different person.
I learned that sometimes in life, it doesn’t matter how good you are if you do not have the right connection to move forward. And this applies to many other aspects in life. The harsh truth of reality is I did not establish a strong connection base in-order for a larger circle of dancers to notice me. And in-order to establish that strong connection base, I needed to be involved in certain dance competitions of which the nature of it does not suit my personality – i.e freestyle battles.
I have a completely different direction in my goal as a dancer. I had a purpose. I wanted to advocate the uniqueness of personalized choreography through music that we do not often hear on the radio and using that to promote meaningful messages that raise critical issues in life such as abortion, drug abuse, famine, war, terrorism, poverty and so on. I also wanted dance to be drama-free and something anyone can do. Unfortunately, very few are on the same boat as me and I do not have a strong dance circle to help elevate this dream to a reality.
I came to realize that just because something is your passion, it doesn’t mean it has got to be your career.
For me, this was the case. Maybe people find me extremely difficult to understand and I feel apologetic for those who feel that way. I often feel that my outward eccentricity swayed people away from trying to get close to me and tried to understand me. Perhaps dance is not the avenue for me in my country.
Some might say “Never give up”, “always pursue your dreams”, “If there’s a will there’s a way”. While that’s true, but dance is not just a sport nor an entrepreneurship. You can’t become great just by sheer will or effort. You have to adapt to the ecosystem and it takes a commitment that I’m not willing to go down to.
Although I no longer pursue my dream in becoming a full-time dancer, I still dance every now and then and will be doing so for as long as my body permits.
I thank everyone who has been a part of that journey with me through thick and thin for the past 8 years. These are words from the bottom of my heart and for a passion that is and will always be a part of me forever.
If the piece resonated with you somehow, then don’t forget to share it to help others find it.
If you like content like this, then sign up for our weekly newsletter. We’ll send you the week’s best resources on improving your creativity, productivity, honing your craft, technology, and links to what we’ve posted.