01 The Write Elements: Two-fer: Dance Singapore Dance

Friday, 17 July 2015

Two-fer: Dance Singapore Dance

Oh this was such a head-turner. I was meant to attend the DSD media preview but the obvious people we wanted to interview weren't going to be around so it was a day of conducting email and phone interviews as fast as I could. Thankfully it wasn't due the next day but I stayed quite late to complete it. Their stories moved me so much I couldn't let them go.

Both online 

Unable to walk properly, he's now in dance contest

He has been passionate about dance and martial arts since he was eight years old.
But at 19, he was dealt a blow - the possibility of being handicapped and not being able to walk properly anymore.
Despite going through four knee operations, Mr Derek Seong refused to let go of his dreams and is literally back on his feet.
Not only is he a full-time dance and martial arts trainer, he is also one of the Top 12 finalists of new reality TV dance competition Dance Singapore Dance (DSD), the local version of the popular Indian series Dance India Dance.
Auditions here started in March, with 200 hopefuls aged 16 to 35 vying for the grand prize of $10,000 as well the title of the inaugural DSD champion.
It premieres on Friday (July 18) at 8pm over Zee TV APAC across 18 countries.
Amazing journey
Mr Seong, 35, told TNP:
“It was an amazing feeling to get through the audition rounds. Taking part in Dance Singapore Dance is a personal journey and is something you can’t put a price on or measure...
“Being disabled is a term given by the doctors.
"I feel it boils down to overcoming a psychological barrier and constantly pushing oneself beyond your limits.”

Mr Seong was meant to serve a 10-year contract with the Singapore Armed Forces but received an early release after eight years in the force.
He entered the army at 19, which was when he had his first “episode”.
He said the ligaments in his right knee tore because of all the rigorous military training he underwent, and all the martial arts training he did when he was younger just made it worse.
“My family wasn’t doing so well then (financially), so I signed on (as a regular) to help them,” said Mr Seong.
Injury woes
The longer he stayed, however, the more injuries he sustained.
In 2007, two years after his third surgery, he left the army and started his own dance group, Dancescape (Singapore), as it was his “calling”.
In 2013, it was finally his left knee that gave way and, once again, he needed surgery.
At that point, the worst thing that could have befallen him was to further injure himself to the point where it would be a “permanent disability” and he would need supports, braces or crutches, because there was “no other means of replacement”. 
He added:
“I felt afraid. Being a dance trainer and (not being able to) dance or demonstrate basic stuff - how can I continue this career? I already left the army so there’s no turning back.
“I did what I could to keep myself going.”
Going against doctors’ orders - they advised against strenuous physical activity - he insisted on moving around.
“Rehabilitation (helped) strengthen my knees,” he said.
Seong had to build the muscles to “replace ligament loss”, so he would constantly be training because when he stops moving he loses his mobility.
He would continue to work on his legs, every day of the week, and would even do lunges when he was ill. Otherwise, there were times when his knees could lock and he wouldn’t be able to straighten them. 
His physical disabilities limit him to the point where he can’t do very fast squats or tap dance, since his legs are too slow.
Different focus
Seong doesn’t dance much now, but focuses on choreography instead. 
He doesn’t have that luxury in DSD though, but said the instructor and other contestants do their best to work around him, such as when he has to pose and support himself with his left leg, which is weaker than the other.
They only found out about his condition when he became a finalist.
“I had zero professional training but I would travel to different countries to learn from the pros there,” he said.
“Training for the competition was intense – I put in so many hours until I lost count. In the first week, at least 20 hours were dedicated to training and practice and leading up to the final week, I met with my mentor, choreographer Roche Mascarenhas, every night till about 4 to 5am.
“Thoughts of giving up came to me at times during those tough rehearsals.”
But he didn’t give up.
His wife of four years has been his constant pillar of support, and so have his students.
Mr Seong said if he wins DSD, he would use the prize money to get replacement implants in both his knees, because he felt his left leg wasn’t properly fixed. The most expensive treatment he had cost $15,000.
But that the dream doesn’t stop there.
“(I want to) organise a dance competition for students," said Mr Seong.
"Mentoring the next generation is important to me and I would want to give away a bursary-type award to promising talent for them to further pursue their dance career.”

Logan's soulful performance and bloody knee left judges in tears


He is said to be the dark horse of Dance Singapore Dance, as he entered the Top 12 after an original contestant dropped out due to “personal reasons”.
And because Mr Logan Narayanasamy is still very much in the running, viewers will also have more chances to watch his tear-jerking performances.
He made it to the semi-finals with an impressive solo that was said to have moved local judge Zaini Tahir to tears.
It’s also Mr Logan’s personal favourite to date as it was “dedicated to someone special”.
The 27-year-old fitness trainer told The New Paper: “It was my late friend, former dance crew member and a brother to me, Vikneswaran who passed away in a tragic accident.
"He was one person who always thought I was the best dancer.”
He added:

“Whenever it came to dance, he always put me forward and believed in the talent that I’ve got. 

"It was only right if he was around to see me perform in this show (that I) make him proud.”

It was certainly a tribute to remember.
Mr Logan said he attempted a knee slide on stage without a knee guard — as it would “break away from his character” — causing his knee to bleed.
“The skin on my knee tore badly. I teared not due to the pain, but because I recalled the reason why I was performing that item,” he said.
“Judge Zaini was moved by my expression and perseverance to continue.
"This was also a performance where I felt I was able to express my emotions fully and therein lies the beauty of the piece.”

Unable to walk properly, he's now in dance contest
Unable to walk properly, he's now in dance contest

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