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My Dance Story

~I've decided to tell my dance story...as an inspiration to other dancers and dancer-to-bes. Enjoy!~

I first started dancing at the age of 5...and took my first Primary RAD exam at 7. Unfortunately, my parents stopped my classes when we shifted to a new town that did not offer ballet classes. When a Yamaha School was set up there a few years later, I dragged my mother to the school to let me sign up for classes. I was so upset when I found out they didn't have classes "for my age and grade at the moment". On the other hand, I guess my parents were quite relieved as my piano lessons were already eating into their pockets.

I continued on with life of course =P...but still looking with envy at other girls dressed in pink leotard and skirts on their way to ballet lessons. My passion still burned in me...and grew as I read ballet story books at the Tampines Regional Library. When I finished reading all the ballet books available, I had to switch libraries...

Just when I thought I could find no more ballet books to read, I chanced upon an RAD guidebook for Pre-primary to Grade 5. Using my window sill as a barre while I carefully copied the pictures in the book which I placed on a music stand, I began my self-taught ballet at the age of 13. Soon I found that I wasn't able to understand the steps on my own. What made me decide I had to find a teacher was this step called "glissades". It was mind-boggling...the pictures only showed poses of the movement...but nothing between the poses. (yeah, I didn't have internet at that time for me to click on "glissades" and watch a real dancer execute the step)

I started calling up dance schools in the yellow pages...I was going nuts...I just had to dance! The rates they quoted to me were all for adult beginners...which were too expensive for someone like me with an $18/week allowance. I finally found my beloved teacher, Mrs Lim Soo Chern through a church friend. I was 15. Mrs Lim allowed me to stomp around her studio with the rest of her Grade 6 students...letting me find my way. My fellow classmates were extremely helpful, agreeing to come down earlier every week to coach me just before lessons.

2 yrs later, I took my Intermediate Foundation (RAD Vocational Exams)...with a sprained ankle. Yeah I was seriously depressed and freaked out about my ankle. But things turned out okay. The next few years I took Grades 6-8, achieving perfect scores for Grades 6 & 7. My Grade 6 was done with my still-recovering ankle, and Grade 7 was done with a fresh sprain on the other leg. Grade 8 was done with stress fractures on both legs from the knees down to the feet. I found out that I had very lax ligaments...so that in addition to my late and accelerated training caused all my injuries.

I finally did my latest examination in 2005 (Intermediate RAD) with a pinched nerve in my foot which didn't allow me to dance for the crucial last 2wks before the exams. So far, I have danced with SDT in the role of snowflakes in The Nutcracker in Dec 2005 (with the pinched nerve and a sprained toe) as well as "dance of the hours" in Coppelia March 2007 (for once no injury!). I'm glad that my passion has driven me to survive such "ordeals".

My dream has been to teach late beginners or late "restarters" like myself..just like the way my teacher patiently groomed me to what I have become. I have also found great importance in conditioning exercises that have helped me strengthen and tone my muscles to make up for my lax ligaments, and stretching exercises to soothe and lengthen tired muscles to reduce overuse injury. This is the impetus for my Stretch & Strengthen classes.

I hope my story has inspired you! Do email me with your own stories which I would gladly post here =P

Keep on dancing and live your dreams!


Christine said...

Hi Joni,

I've always thought of retaking ballet classes after stopping them when I entered secondary school. I've passed both the Senior Grade and Grade V of the new syllabus back then around 1992. Recently, I thought of taking pilates to improve my flexibility, and your stretching class sounds like a good alternative, except for the fact that Bedok's a bit far for me since i live in Boon Lay...

In any case, which of your adult ballet classes would be suitable for my background and which day & what time are they? Thanks!

Christine said...

Me again. I just saw the class timings. Sunday is my only day for sleeping in and 8.30am is so early!!! Anyway, by when should I register & pay if I am keen to sacrifice sleep for dance? Thanks!

~JoNi~ said...

Hey there Christine!

Thank you for your interest. Pls email me at tanjoni@gmail.com so I can reply you via email!

Just a note...the sunday class is at 8.30PM, not AM =P. I'm not too sure what your standard is right now, but I can let you have a pay per lesson trial class first to gauge from there. You can drop me an email for registration with your contact number and I'll be communicating with you from there!


Chester Tan said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It's indeed a miracle and a testimony of your inert talent for dance and passion to pursue your interests.

Rona said...

Joni! Your story is so touching! i never knew you started ballet so late! That's really amazing.:):):) jiayoujiayou! wo ai ni<3 haha!:)

WiN said...

Hey Joni,

It was great to know your story, it really reflects your passion for ballet and dance =)

Keep on going girl, believe you'll be an inspiration for the next generation of young dancers.

Anastasia said...

Hi Joni,

It is a touching story.. It must be hard for you to always have an injury during the exams and performance, yet you hit perfect score. That's so amazing!

I actually would like to take ur ballet class, but I live in Jurong West. Moreover, I'm not a singaporean, so it's quite too hard for me to travel so far every week.. If you know a ballet school near jurong west or boon lay (or if you open a class near here), please inform me, ok? I'll be so grateful ;)

Btw, nice to meet you. I am Anastasia. I danced since small, but had stopped dancing at about 12 years old. Now I'm joining chinese dance club at NTU and hope to get back to ballet again ;)

Margot said...


Your story is inspiring. I cannot take your lessons - I live too far.. But I am searching for ballet schools with lessons for adults for months... I danced from 11yo to 18yo with a 2 years pause. I'm 28 now. Do you think it's too late? People look at me as if i was crazy....

Sirena said...

An inspiring story and I'm so glad your dream worked out in the end. I saw my first ballet at age 3 and wanted to be a dancer, but I had a lot of serious childhood illness and couldn't exercise at all. By the time I'd recovered, I was 17 and thought it was all too late.

Over the years I travelled a lot and when I found adult ballet classes, I would join in, but never had the chance to study seriously (and didn't think there was much point, to be honest). Then in my late 30's, I discovered flamenco. Within 5 years I was dancing semi-professionally!

To any other frustrated ballerinas I would say - don't close your eyes to other kinds of dance. Even if ballet seems like your first and only love, you may be surprised how much you can enjoy other styles if you give them a try - and how far they can take you!

Simin said...

Hello Joni,

I just met you yesterday.

But my story is kind of lame.

I stopped ballet at Grade 3
because i wanted to watch
Return of the Condor Heroes
when i was at Primary 3.

Later i started to regret my choice.

I wanted to join Modern dance in secondary school later, but my primary school friend managed to persuade me to join choir with her.

Seems like i did not have the courage to stand up for what i wanted last time.

And later when i had the courage to join Modern Dance in JC, i failed their auditions.

So there goes dance...

till recently i heard that my friend is taking up piano, at the age of 20.

And it suddenly dawned upon me that 20 is still young. I still had a chance to learn dancing.

I hope i could fulfill my dream this time. :)

See you at Kampong Chai Chee CC on July 4th okay?

Julie said...

What a wonderful story! Your passion for dance, and your determination for making it happen, is so inspirational.

su ling said...

Hi Joni
Your story is so inspiring. And now I know why you're such a patient teacher!

Jieying (: said...

Hi Joni,
Today is my first time stepping to ur blog. After i read ur story, it inspired me to dance again.
I did not take any RAD ballet exam.
I joined chinese dance before in primary school. I quitted it in P5. Now i am P6. I would like to learn ballet again...
Please tell me what to do :(

,..--***--..,,..--***--..,,..--***--..,,..--***--.., said...

pls email me your questions..its easier to discuss there =P

Jieying (: said...

Dear Joni,
I had sent you the email :)
Do reply soon, thanks :)
Yours sincerely,

Jen said...

Hi Joni,

I chance upon your blog as i was trying to google to understand more about laxed ligament which is what my 6 yr old is "suffering from" and had to stop her ballet class...

I was wondering if you are able to share how "serious" is such condition and do you get pain every now and then as you continue to pursue ballet?


Artful Dodger ;) said...

Hello:) I know i read this post quite late. I just wanted to say that your story is really an inspiration and i feel like learning ballet now. The thing is that i am 14 and i don't have much experience in dancing. I wonder if i can still learn it. :)
God bless,

ted said...

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cagalli yula atha said...

Hello! I can't believe how close your story is to mine!!! Only, mine is not complete yet! But it's full of hope. You see, I did Ballet Grade 1 when I was like 6, then my father decided to end my lessons due to financial reasons. I would crave ballet so bad that I write poems, I cry and I basically feel like a part of my soul was torn out. Worse part is, my dad was crazy about me studying hard so I wasn't allowed to spend free time reading ballet books, only textbooks. I pestered my dad, for 10 entire years! I'm 16 now. Finally this year, he relented. And, thus, I began trying to find a ballet teacher who would take me into a graded syllabus class as I did not want to do adult ballet, I wanted to do the real thing. Through a friend, I found Miss Chua at Hwi Yoh CC who was willing to take me in at my advanced age (ahem). She put me in Grade 3 just 2 weeks ago and finally I'm on my way!!!

Your story has told me that it's all possible, that Ballet is not closed to me. It's inspiring, really. Lots of hard work ahead, but I'm determined. Thank you. Your story gives me hope.


The power of Dance!

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zara_wawa said...

Hi Joni

It's amazing that we share the same story. I even live in Bedok. Haha but ya my childhood I have only dreamed of taking ballet but my parents insisted on piano instead.... I had to spend years in Yamaha watching the fortunate ballerinas dance in the other room.

I have a question though. I am 18 and I want to start with adult ballet .. but most don't allow me the opportunity to take the exams. I mean I'm serious about ballet but don't know if I want to be a dancer. I just want to do it for the rest of my life. So do you know anyway I can take the exams and whether I should even try

Julia Taylor said...

I like your dance story, basically your passion is dace from your childhood i love you aim. Ballet Tickets NYC available.