Shared by Brian Ng, Singapore Management University, Year 3
Before I enrolled into SMU, I was kind of a nerdy kid. Donning a pair of white spectacles, similar to that of Red Foo’s of LMFAO, I thought I looked studious and was all ready for life in SMU. (Sadly, my friends all thought I looked like a cock but did not tell me till I changed them a year later) I wasn’t the most outspoken person and often took time to open up to others. I feared for life in SMU because of the legendary Class Participation. Coming from a JC background, I had little experience in presentations, let alone speaking up in class. I was the typical last-minute exam fella, who always managed to pull through major examinations. However, that was one of the main reasons why I chose SMU as well, because I knew that it was a weakness and I had to work on it, especially if I were to work in a managerial position in my future career.
Coming from a sports background, my initial plan was to join the SMU tennis team. After acquiring all the necessary tennis equipment, I attended the SMU tennis trials on one fine Saturday afternoon. Sadly, it did not turn out too well and I did not have a good experience at all. Feeling dejected, I went home and slumped in my couch.
Then came the moment that changed my life.
My Freshmen Team-Building (FTB) friend Kenneth Lee gave me a call and asked me to go for the Salsa audition that was taking place in an hour’s time. I had already missed the introductory 101 classes because of the trials. However, given my sucky day, I decided to support my FTB facilitator Woo Wei Cong who was also part of the Salsa Team. I took a Leap of Faith, rushed down immediately and the next thing I knew, I had a number tag and was struggling to learn the audition choreography.
Throughout the entire experience, I thought to myself, “I have never danced before in my life and now, I have to not only learn the steps but to dance with a girl as well?!” I was flabbergasted. The weirdest thing was that at the end of the audition, I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself. I kinda loved the weird arrangement (123,567) of Salsa music. Everything else was history. I managed to pass the auditions and I became part of the prestigious SMU Caderas Latinas.
My life changed significantly after.
Being in a dance club is totally different from a sports CCA. I struggled like mad for every training, attempting to do splits and twisting my body in all kinds of positions. My peers who were from previous dance CCAs were already finding it difficult to adjust to Salsa, I was just dying. However I began to fall deeper in love with the dance. To make up for my lack of experience, I often stayed behind after trainings to work on my technique. My athleticism and stamina was a bonus for me, as I kept on drilling and working via blood and sweat in order to catch up with my peers and demanding choreographies. Before I knew it, I was involved in my first dance performance and I got addicted to the adrenaline rush of performing on stage.
Not long after, I embarked on an overseas trip with the team. We managed to clinch 1st place in the amateur Salsa category at the Dance Grand Prix Italia. After our victory, we hopped over to Croatia and I attended my very first International Salsa Congress. It was a real eye opener, as I never knew that many people in the world danced Salsa. The entire Rovinj city was buzzing with excitement and I enjoyed every bit of the experience.
After being crazily inspired by the trip, I then decided to take part in the Inter-Tertiary Salsa Competition (ITSC) 2012. I had the privilege to work with 2 of the most dedicated alumni, Chin Ta and Lifeng. They played a major part in developing my dance abilities. Yet again, the ITSC journey was a long and demanding one. The learning curve was steep and expectations were sky high. My dance partner Grace and I incurred many cuts and bruises along the way. Be it flipping her in the air or trying to dance at crazy speed, I was constantly pushed to my utmost limits. On top of the steps, the most difficult part was to learn how to be “SICK” on stage. (Sick is a term used to describe absoluteness jaw-dropping awesomeness) I had to be more expressive, more flamboyant, more engaging, things I never thought I could ever do given my timid and reserved self. But eventually, our sacrifices and hard work eventually paid off and we clinched the 1st place at ITSC!!
In the following year, I decided to attempt a feat that has never been accomplished before: Being a year 2 choreographer for an entire ITSC piece. Thanks to the help from my previous dance partner Grace, we chose Timothy and Sheryl (who happens to me my Girlfriend as well) and embarked on a totally new experience. (In case you were wondering. No, there was no biasness. The ITSC auditions were fair and square.) I was drained every single day, balancing between my internship as well as choreography. Due to my severe lack of experience, I had to watch a lot more Salsa videos to choreograph the piece. Throughout the entire journey, I watched hundreds of Salsa Videos! A big thing I realized was that Dancing is level 1, whereas Teaching is level 5. It was so much easier dancing the year before as compared to choreographing and teaching it.
Surprisingly, Tim and Sheryl were crowned champions for ITSC 2013. It was truly an odd-defying moment as our choreography beat those of experienced Salsa instructors. It was one of the proudest moments in my life. I was the youngest choreographer in Caderas Latinas’ history to have choreographed a wining ITSC piece.
Looking back at my past 3 years in Caderas Latinas, it has indeed been filled with many life-changing memories. This club has shaped my entire SMU life and it holds a very special place in my heart. I often ask myself, why am I constantly trying to push the boundaries? Why am I always trying to inspire my peers and my juniors? Why am I striving for excellence and haven’t I given back enough to the club?
The answer is simple. Pure Passion.
I immerse myself in the music. I live and breathe the dance. I am constantly walking down my never-ending path of sickness. There is always something to learn, be it partner work or individual shines, everybody interprets the music in a different way and it is truly inspiring to see it come to life. Although the entire experience was filled with hardship, it has been a very fruitful one.
Thinking back of my nerdy sporty self, I have indeed come a long way to where I am today. I have always thought that it will be my numerous presentations in SMU that will enable me to be more confident of myself. I have always thought that Class Participation will allow me to be more vocal. However, never would I have imagined at the beginning, that my subsequent leap of faith on a faithful Saturday afternoon would be the sole reason for shaping me to who I am today, the “Beast” of Caderas Latinas. From the numerous times I have performed on stage, I have learnt how to be more expressive and daring. Additionally, this has also provided me with the necessary self-confidence to tackle difficult internship interviews. I managed to navigate through stringent rounds of Unilever interviews and finally landed myself an internship there and this is all largely attributed to the confidence gained from being a Salsa dancer.
About a month ago, I was diagnosed with Spontaneous Pneumothorax. (The collapse of my left lung) It was a great setback as I was looking forward to joining the advanced trainings conducted by the alumni. The doctor gave me 2 options:
1) Temporary measures and bear the risk of it reoccurring.
2) To undergo surgery to eliminate any reoccurrence.
At that point of time, the only thing on my mind was Salsa. I could not imagine myself giving up on dance because of my condition. It was probably one of the toughest decisions I have ever made in my life but I knew that it was the right one. I underwent surgery and I am now in my recuperation phase. I am doing some light social dancing but I am leaving out the Salsa tricks for the time being HAHA. I am really looking forward to my full recovery and to continue on my path to sickness!!
To all the readers out there: My advice to you is to live your varsity life to the fullest. Don’t let fears and doubts prevent you from taking that leap of faith. You never know what you may end up with. Be it discovering a newfound passion or falling in love with a new interest, take the dive. What’s there to lose? If you do not enjoy it, you can choose to leave. I could have been the guy who regretted not attending the Salsa audition on that Saturday afternoon and thankfully, I am not him. Be bold. Be daring. Be adventurous. Be the nerdy boy who managed to unleash his inner beast. Speaking on behalf of my Salsa President Ryan, he too didn’t know what was in stall for him when he went for the Salsa audition. Like me, we both fell in love with the dance and the club as well and the rest is history.
I will like to end off this post with a famous Caderas Latinas quote that has thoroughly reshaped my life:
When in doubt, Just do it!
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