“Besides dance, I don’t really know anything else.”
JJ has been a dancer since she was 6 years-old and that she hasn’t stopped dancing since. Now, she is the founder of a local dance company, EV Dance, the principal choreographer of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s HipHop Dance Club, New Revolving Age (NRA) and Creator of Swaggout Singapore.
She strongly believes in giving back to the dance community which can be reflected through the work that she has done over the years.
JJ created Swaggout Singapore because in 2008, she used her savings to fly to Los Angeles (LA) for dance training, however it dawned on her that many dancers in Singapore might not have the funds to fly that far to learn as much as she did.
Therefore, instead of finding a way to take Singaporeans to LA, she found a way to bring renowned international choreographers to Singapore, to teach local dancers.
At the same time, she started EV Dance as the main organizer for Swaggout Singapore. She also described EV dance as a “mobile company” as back then, she did not have a studio but still went ahead to coach at secondary schools.
She used to coach many neighbourhood schools where a lot of students needed financial aid.
These students received assistance from the school so they could dance in their CCAs, however once they graduated, not all of them continued dancing.
So, she gathered these “graduates” and dubbed them as Team EV. This was to make them feel at home and give them a place where they can take classes or continue dancing.
Her coaches even gave classes every week for free where they try to have weekly sessions with them. However, since they didn’t have a studio at the time, there was no fixed location for them to train at, so in 2016, EV Dance finally got a studio situated at Waterloo Street.
“We (used to) always find different locations like over at S’cape or at Esplanade to teach. So, three years ago I thought it was time to have a place for them.”
She said that the direction of her dance studio is not commercial. She explained that despite being a Private Company, EV Dance is not profit driven. Therefore, they are mostly searching for funds to run her programmes so that her students can dance for free and compete in competitions.
However since EV does a lot of non-profit events this led to her creating Evok3, a non-profit organization that she uses to run events and train her current students.
“Right now the pool of Team EV students and the non-profit events that we run are actually running with Evok3, to have more initiative and at least to meet our objective.”
She clarifies that since EV Dance already has a huge account with schools due to coaching, that she wants to continue maintaining and building on this account while having Evok3 to build on non-profit events such as Swaggout Singapore and World Supremacy Battlegrounds Singapore.
“This is not easy as there are a lot of differing perceptions especially in Singapore. Particularly how parents will say that ‘dancing will not make you anything or that you will not go anywhere (with dance).’”
However, that was not the case for JJ as she has a very supportive family. Despite 2009 being a difficult year for her family as her mother was sick, her mother still supported her even when she was going through chemotherapy. Her sisters also played a major role in helping her set up EV Dance by supporting her in the corporate side of things.
However, even though EV Dance had been going on for 10 years, she revealed that they haven’t been doing well.
She says that in the past she had to have a second job as a financial adviser to sustain her way of living. However, now she is grateful for having her supportive sisters and a great team, as their efforts are being recognized by other organizations that could provide support to EV Dance.
When asked about how she motivates herself, she told me that she doesn’t have a strategy to do that and that every job will have its struggles but the reason why she can keep going is because she loves what she is doing.
“The blessing is just that I’m doing things that I really want to do. I really love coaching even till now.”
Many dancers from her “era” have stepped down to start their own families or moved on with their life with other careers. However, she isn’t worried about struggles wavering her motivation because she genuinely loves her job.
She admits that as time went by and as she got older, her body was not as strong as before, so she has a lot of injuries and has to start all over again in terms of conditioning her body, but she enjoys the process.
Amidst that, she has also learnt about her limits, be it physical and mental and about what truly motivates her and makes her happy.
“Something I believe in is to follow your passion, but to bring your brain along. Because I think that most of the time, we always want to do things without thinking of the consequences. I think that we can still make our dreams happen, but sometimes you have to be logical about it.”