Behind Expression Platform: Co-Founder Yiing Zhi

It’s been 3 months since we’ve first launched Expression Platform, and we thought that it’d be a good opportunity for all of you to get to know us better – starting with Yiing Zhi! So yes, hi, I’m Yiing Zhi, and I’m the co-founder of Expression Platform. Dance and words have always been a big part of my life, so this is just a little more background on who I am as a dancer. Thank you for being part of Expression Platform’s journey, and read on to get to know me a little better!

Yiing Zhi’s Fast Facts & Personal Accomplishments:

  • Started dancing just before I turned 4
  • Dabbled in tap, modern jazz, and a little hip-hop
  • 2012: Joined the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Summer Performance Course in Wellington, New Zealand
  • 2015: Joined Dance Space Sdn Bhd’s full-length production Giselle as a member of the corps de ballet
  • 2015: Successfully completed the Royal Academy of Dance’s (RAD) Advanced 2
  • 2016: Joined Dance Space Sdn Bhd’s full-length production Romeo & Juliet as a member of the corps de ballet
  • 2018: Joined Dance Space Sdn Bhd’s full-length production Sleeping Beauty as a soloist – Fairy of Joy
  • Personal Quote About Dance: “Dancing is my light.”

Q: Why did you start dancing?
A: Well, it didn’t start off being my choice. Who knows anything when they’re barely 4? I was sent to class, and I didn’t hate it; that’s what I can say about my starting point of dance.

Q: Why did you persevere in dance?
A: I’m not a quitter, and I genuinely enjoy dancing – enough for me to keep dancing for as long as I can.

Q: Why do you love dancing so much?
A: That’s something that I sometimes wonder about myself, and I still can’t really put a finger on it. Growing up, I was never really thrust into the competitive side of ballet, but I know I enjoyed performing a lot – I still do. Sometimes I want to say it’s the beauty and grace of ballet, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the kind of quiet, inner strength ballerinas have; maybe I’ll just call it silk-wrapped steel? Also, dancing makes me forget reality, especially if I’m going through some rockiness. When I dance, everything else falls away, and there’s a kind of freedom to it. And I enjoy that freedom in movement.

Q: What do you think is most important to be a good dancer?
A: Technique, of course. But I’m not talking about how high your leg can go, or how many pirouettes you can do. I’m talking about “correctness”; doing things the correct way. Alignment, squareness, and cleanliness, I suppose, and a hunger to learn, as well as the “never give up” spirit.

Q: If you didn’t fall in love with ballet first, what other dance would you have preferred?
A: You know what? I think I would have gone for hip-hop/street dance. Less constrictive movements delivered with power and efficiency, what’s not to love? Other than that, maybe Latin/ballroom. God, the way the dancers slither all over the dance floor is a visual feast like no other.

Q: What do you think is your best move?
A: God, I’m not even sure I have a best move at this point. Give me some time. *an eternity later, and still panicking* uh… really simple steps, maybe? Pose turns, poses, releves? I actually have no idea. Maybe my friends who have been dancing together with me can help me with this.

Q: And your worst move?
A: Also tough to answer because I feel like I have so many of those! Let’s see, a renverse is always tough to pull off, I still can’t grand jete properly after years of trying (forced smile) – actually big jumps in general, and whatever that requires lifting of the leg? My devant is especially inflexible with a maximum of 90 – I wish I was kidding but I’m not.

Q: If there was one thing you could change about your technique, what would it be?
A: Bold of you to assume I would only want to change one thing about my technique. Strength – does that count? I feel like if I had more strength everywhere: legs, arms, core, then I’d be able to execute all the movements with more power, conviction, and well, better technique.

Q: If there was one thing you could go back and change in the course of your dance history, what would it be?
A: Change my previous dance studio to my current one. For various reasons.

Q: Allegro or adage?
A: Death would be preferable. I have trouble with both these sections, but if I really, really have to choose, allegro? My basic petit allegro is alright (it should be if we’re just doing sautes and changements am I right?), but my beats are a little messy, and they do get tangled up sometimes, and when triple beats come into play… let’s just say I do try. Very hard. Grand allegro is the bane of all my dance movements but at least I’m still moving even if I don’t look great. Let’s not adage because A) I’m not very flexible and B) who would want to stand and look bad? If I have to look bad might as well move and look like I’m doing something?

Q: Excellent turnout or amazing jumps?
A: Excellent turnout. I feel like turnout to a certain extent is kind of natural, whereas jumps are more easily trained? I mean, not that I’m saying you can’t train your turnout, but it’s just that it’s easier to train your jumps than your turnout.

Q: What’s your best experience in dance so far?
A: If I’m being honest, every production I join is a memorable experience. But also if I have to choose, I have a top 2. The first would be the RAD Summer Performance Course I joined in 2012, at the New Zealand School of Dance. That was my first experience of what being a pro dancer would be like, and I found that I enjoyed it lots. A full day of dancing, simple dinner, and early bedtime because we had another full day of dancing the next day again. I learnt lots from the other participants and of course the teachers there, and was even introduced to contemporary, Maori-style. We had to put on a performance at the end of the course, and we only had two weeks to do it. Coincidentally, the two contemporary teachers for the course were siblings, and they decided to pay homage to their Maori culture by having all the different groups dance to a natural element. Our group embodied water, and though I really struggled, I also had lots of fun with it. The other would be last year’s Sleeping Beauty. I finally got a solo role, and it was the first time my best friends and I danced together as the same roles (we were all fairies). Rehearsal times were the best, and I learnt lots from Mr. Raymond, our guest choreographer as well. I was at my prime during that time.

Q: And your worst experience?
A: Being injured in the middle of a two-week performance. Did I have a major role? Not quite. But was I still important? Quite. Was I heartbroken? Duh. Did I cry? Yes, noisily. Did I carry on? Also yes. Have I healed from that injury? No, not really. Do I still dance? Yes. Do I plan on fixing my injury? Yes, but I think the only way to “fix” it is to stop dancing, so maybe not after all. Being injured is the worst thing ever. It’s not so bad now because I took some time off, but it lingers anyway.

Q: What’s your favourite ballet?
A: Not that I’ve been super exposed to all the ballets, I really only am familiar with the classics, so my answer may be pretty typical: Don Quixote. The music is to-die for, and the second act is ethereal. Love most roles in the ballet as well, especially the first act!

Q: Do you have a favourite dancer?
A: I have several, to be honest. Queen of allegro Natalia Osipova, have you seen her long, long lines Svetlana Zakharova, queens of fouttes Viengsay Valdes and Adiarys Almeida, Jesus-Christ-that-arch Sylvie Guillem… really, we’d be here all day.

Q: What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt in ballet dancing?
A: Nobody gives a damn if you’re injured so get up and keep going? I’m kidding, but it’s something like that. The thing about ballet dancing is that it can be extremely taxing, especially if you don’t take care of your legs properly and also get enough rest. And also if you don’t warm up properly. Getting injured is an occupational hazard of being a ballerina, and that means if you want to dance, you stomach the pain. Lots of pain. The bruised or fallen off nail, the bleeding, the swelling, the cramping, the blisters; sometimes even a sprained ankle – you just push through it and keep going. Dancers really do have their own set of horror stories to share, but I digress. The most important lesson is probably to not give up in the face of adversity – mind over matter. Just like my friend once said, “would sacrifice life itself for dance”. (It sounded much more cheerful and casual in Mandarin, and here’s the loose translation of how it actually sounds like: “want to dance don’t want life”. My Mandarin-speaking people, do you get me?)

Q: Based on your “glance at dance”, how has dance impacted your life?
A: I’m inseparable from dance right now, maybe forever, and going through so many years of dance has impacted my life in so many ways. First of all, patience and perseverance. Movements aren’t perfected overnight, and I got where I got to be today after years. So I’m definitely happy with what I’ve managed to achieve, and I’m not beating myself up about being bad at certain things; I merely keep going, no matter how slow the progress. The importance of teamwork. A ballet can’t be successful without each and every dancer taking part – that’s the corps de ballet, who does all the beautiful, synchronised group work, with not one hair out of place. In my opinion, if you haven’t been part of the corps de ballet before you dance anything solo, you wouldn’t know the importance of hard work and compromise. Also, the delicate balance between pushing yourself and giving yourself a break. Ballet is a perfectionist kind of activity, and sometimes it’s so easy to burnout due to too much stress. It’s always important to know when to take a step back to relax, and that applies in life too. Last but not least, friendship. “Friends who dance together, stay together”, and I’m so grateful for the whole network we dancers have – giving encouragement when one feels down, helping each other with weaknesses and memory lapses, and just getting to know one another better through dance!

Thank you once again for sticking with us so far; it’s been pretty crazy to get it started and keep it going, but Grace and I are still working on lots of things, hopefully more to come your way! If you’d like to follow me on my day-to-day activities, you can follow my Instagram at @yiingzhiwrites or for more writings, visit my WordPress site at https://yiingzhiwrites.wordpress.com. If you have any questions regarding Expression Platform or even myself, feel free to drop me a message through the contact page! Also, stay tuned for the feature on Grace next month!

Author

Yiing Zhi

Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.

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