I was a very different person then and now due to ballet. I danced throughout my entire childhood and it was a world of freedom that I could get lost into. 

Chopsticks. No, it should be “Chopsticks! Push your knees in and don’t let them bulge out” or “Chopsticks! Point more! Point! Point! Point!”. I was called chopsticks not in a demeaning way but it was an affectionate way of how my first ballet teacher, Ms Cheah nicknamed me. My other classmates did not have nicknames except for me because being the only skinny kid, my legs reminded her of chopsticks. She even told my aunt who still dances till today about my nickname and I still get called that today. I knew that it was affectionate term as even after I moved up a grade, my aunt would notify me about Ms Cheah’s enquiry about me and how she did it was, “How is chopsticks?”

I decided to revisit Fort Canning Arts Centre where my previous ballet school, Singapore Dance Theatre used to be. It has now shifted to Bugis but the building has still remained. It was all renovated with the cool air from the air-con filling the corridor and there was an empty gelato shop there. It was sort of modern and historic fused into one as the building probably originates back to WW2. I was not allowed entry on the second floor because it was for ‘Staff Only’ but being back there already made me smile and the memories flooded.

I gushed about everything about the place and my ballet lessons to my boyfriend, who accompanied me to the site. It surprised me that I still contain so much excitement for it, everything there was beautiful and as it was. Fort Canning Arts Centre was majestically serene and surrounded by nature. That was one of the reason why I added background nature sound to the film because every single ballet lessons, I could hear birds, cicadas and leaves rustling with the wind. I got used to it and listening to those once again was actually soothing and brought peace within me. 

In the film, I wore pointe shoes and some moves. Pointe shoes were the epitome of ballet as that meant you are a true ballerina along with the tutu. Not everyone can do it because it is physically straining on the feet. Also, a reason why ballerina toes’ are quite messed up. Pain = Beauty. I missed the pain from wearing those shoes because back then I knew I would look poise in it and it was actually fun to rehearse dances. The shoes itself are hard on the base and sides so they give support while you’re on your toes. But the pain now reminded me of regret for quitting and punishing me for losing all that I’ve learnt then.

There was innocence in those pink shoes. In a way, I was a naive child and did not know much about anything but as soon as I left ballet, I had more time for other commitments and I grew up, cussed more, became less graceful and lady-like and so on… It was the transition from being this polite, obedient and innocent child to trying to figure out who am I that has led me to who I am. Which is truth that I symbolised with sunlight – innocence that has faded away from me which could be symbolised by the flickering at the beginning and ending and finally goes out, that is the catharsis that I am never going to be the person who I was the last time. And why sunlight? Because while studying Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in Junior college, Hester’s child, Pearl is symbolised by the Sun as truth of Hester’s adultery. 

“There are many things in this world that a child must not ask about.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Don’t grow up too fast in a time where “you only live once” is prevalent.

For the remaining projects, I plan to capture the sounds of ballet during my childhood and maybe go back to the beginning of how it all started which is my aunt’s interest in it that influenced me. I would never have become who I am if it was not for her.

Chopsticks – Research

I had a creative block and kept producing ideas but not actually working or starting on any of them. None of them gave me the feeling of “YAS THIS IS SO ME”, it was more like “meh”. I bounced around the idea of photography or filming and if I were to photograph something, should I use a DSLR or my Polaroid film (the beginner’s fuji instax)? I tried the instax during CNY trying to capture rare moments and I did but I lost the damn polaroid. Thankfully, I took a picture of it. 

That got me thinking and I suspect it was partially because of CNY’s atmosphere and chilling with my aunties and uncles that I realised that there were things that I have distanced myself from and forgot about but I actually do miss them.

It was ballet. I started dancing around 5 or 6 years old and both my sisters were doing ballet too. We were enrolled to Singapore Dance Theatre and back then it was still at Fort Canning Park. Being involved in an old art form of ballet and being able to learn it in a historic place was the crème de la crème. Fort Canning itself was beautiful. Surrounded by heritage trees that were there before WW2 and cicadas’ mating calls, it felt as though you were not in Singapore without all the modernity. It’s just magical and relaxing like somehow it was meant to be?  

My childhood largely consisted of ballet. Lessons were twice a week, 2 hours for each lessons. My 60 year old aunt was the one who introduced my sisters and I to it and she still dances. At home, I would dance to the steps that were taught to me or secretly trying on my aunt’s pointe shoes because those symbolised that you were a ballerina.

I remembered there was a shop at the end of the studios selling all kinds of items required for ballet. That scene reminded me of Mr Ollivander’s wand shop from Harry Potter just that this was filled with all sizes and kinds of ballet shoes to pointe shoes and leotards etc. The best feeling was getting a new shoe as it felt like Christmas morning. 

Discipline. Innocence. Grace. Flexibility. Ballet consisted of that and it kind of helped to shape my childhood but once I stopped dancing, those traits left me. I do regret leaving this part of my life behind. Some days I would just unknowingly do some ballet steps and I would be astounded at myself and then the nostalgia would hit me because I realised ballet is innately in me but I somehow suppressed that side. Ballet me and post-ballet me are 2 very different people today. That made me want to film about the lost innocence that I used to have and a memory that I erased from my mind.

Till today, my aunt has always said that I had a figure of a ballerina and it was a waste to stop dancing and looking back, yea, I agree that I could have been a very different person now if I had continued.