Care to dance?

She finds it easier to communicate through dance. — Sunpix by Zulfadhli Zaki
Despite the struggles and potential injuries, she is devoting her life to the ast form.
Dancing is something she has always held close to her heart.

STRUTTING in ballet pointe shoes at the age of four, Ng Xinying would go on to cross over a multitude of different dance styles and disciplines for the next two decades before her maiden, debut (arangetram) performance in 2013.

An important aspect in the classical Indian dance form of Bharatanatyam that marks the end of a student's rigorous training, her solo two-hour performance was well over three years ago. "Right now, I'm a full-time lecturer in Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan (Aswara)," she explains.

Born in Johor, the 28-year-old caught the dancing fever at a young age. "My parents told me that I would never stop dancing if I heard music as a child. So they sent me to learn ballet," she says.

Completing her diploma and degree programmes with Aswara, she then set her sights on Korea National University of Arts's Master of Fine Arts programme, and has not looked back since.

As a choreographer, performer and teacher, she has now taken on the role that was once held by her mentor proclaiming, "When I was young, I had to make sure that everything I learned stayed inside of me. Now, whatever I had learned, I intend on transferring to my students. I want to give back, especially here, in Aswara (where I began)".

Was your family welcoming of this choice?

I started dancing at a young age, and my parents sent me to ballet school. They had no problems at all. Everyone is always shocked with this. Like, my mother is a principal in primary school, and my father works for the church, while my two sisters are into law and pharmacy. I'm really thankful for my parents' understanding and for knowing what I wanted.

Why Indian dance specifically?

Bharatanatyam was one of the compulsory subjects in Aswara. While doing my degree, I had the option of choosing one dance to major in. I was thinking of contemporary dancing, but my dean, Joseph Gonzales, urged me to choose Bharatanatyam as he believed I was very good at it. At the time, I wanted (to do) contemporary dance because it gave the option of studying in Korea. In the end, my dean advised me to do a double major.

So, the decision was dictated by the school?

Yes, but it was also my decision. For me, Bharatanatyam was really challenging and taxing on my stamina. It's very tiring to coordinate my body, from the eyes, neck, hands, fingers, leg movement and beats. There were also the facial expressions aspect through "abhinaya". Ultimately, I was attracted to the challenge of it all.

Have you been injured due to dancing?

I have had two major injuries in my life. The first happened while I was with ASK Dance Company. It was a duet, and my partner was supposed to lift me. In duets, there needs to be control, but his hand must have slipped, and he dropped me on my face. My head was (knocking the table) on the floor.

I completed the solo with blood streaming down my face. The surgery cost me 30-something stitches.

The second injury was not because of a dance; it was in one of the school's female washrooms. After using the washroom, the whole water tank dropped on my foot. This happened one month after my head injury. It really sent me into depression, because compared to the first injury, the second injury was worse due to how much more I needed my feet over my head.

Due to your fear of talking in front of a crowd, do you find it easier to communicate through the physicality of dance and facial expressions compared to just speaking?

Yes, body language is much, much easier for me. Maybe because of that, I prefer dance. Yes, I still have to perform in front of people, but it is a completely different thing. I'm still nervous, but it's much more calming; it is a different kind of "performance" compared to talking.