Lian He Zao Bao
1 May 2010
Bookmark and Share

A first for Singaporean dancers at the American Ballet Competition

(Translated from the original Chinese article in Lian He Zao Bao, click on image to enlarge)

Young promising dancers, Natalie Lam, 15, and Sarah Kang, 14, became the first Singaporeans to win prizes at the American Ballet Competition when they were each awarded the "Most Promising Dancer" award.

Established in 2004 by Kathe rine C. Kersten and Kee Juan Han, the American Ballet Competition offers a unique educational and performance opportunity for talented young dancers. It exposes contestants to international guest teachers and artists through master classes, coaching sessions and unmatched opportunities to be viewed by professional dance directors from throughout the ballet world.

Striking a balance between schoolwork and interest

Both Natalie and Sarah have been dancing since they were young and both display a keen interest in the performing arts.

Natalie, currently a student in the School of the Arts, has been dancing since she was four years old.Besides enjoying the fun that dancing ballet brings, she has also made a lot of friends along the way. She says, "I've made a lot of good friends with a similar passion in the performing arts at the School of the Arts. All of us get along really well and it has been a great experience learning from one another and watching everyone grow and improve."

Sarah, a student at Singapore Chinese Girls' School, concurs that while dancing may be a lonely art-form, it has steeled her willpower to suceed. She shares, "My friends have often asked me why I train so very hard but I feel that if one is serious about dance, you will feel the joy even when you are training very hard. How can that be a bad thing?"

Both the girls were groomed and recommended for participation in this year's competition by ballet instructor, Mr Cheng Hsienfa. Training had begun a few months before the event and sometimes some sessions even started as late as 8pm after school. Indeed, striking
a balance between schoolwork and their passion for dancing has been very challenging for the young ladies. Sarah says, "When faced with the pressure of schoolwork as well as one's passion for dance, it really becomes a struggle to concentrate on either, and that can be very frustrating."

Keen competition and high standards

The week-long American Ballet Competition was held in March in the United States and the girls had to specially take a week away from Singapore and make a 28 hour flight to Austin, Texas. During this period, they were judged in their participation in 2 days of master classes as well as their presentation of 3 solos from the classical ballet repertoire.

Unfortunately, the effects of jet lag did take its toll on the young dancers. Natalie, in particular, had felt extremely tired during the start of the master classes. Moreover,the stiff competition and the high standards displayed by the other participants made her feel that the chances of winning anything was extremely low.

"There were about 20 competitors from America and the rest of the world participating in this competition and they were all technically very proficient and had a wealth of experience participating in other similar competitions before. Therefore, I was genuinely surprised when I learnt of my award.", she says.

Sarah added that the sheer nervousness caused by the intense pressure had made her perspire profusely despite the cold weather in Austin.

Despite their reservations, Natalie and Sarah were both awarded the "Most Promising Dancer" prize based on their outstanding performance during the event. Both girls feel that the award will keep them sharply focussed on achieving their best in dance.

Interestingly, when quizzed about their most unforgettable experience during the competition, both of them agreed that it was that it was the 28 hour long haul flight back home. "It was unforgettable not because it was such a lengthy journey back to Singapore, but because of the sheer happiness of sharing the joy of winning a prize with a good friend that made the 28 hours seem very much shorter than it really was!", said Sarah.