While some trot about in tutus from the age of five, multi-award-winning dancer/choreographer Jeffrey Tan proves it’s never too late to learn ballet – he didn’t pick up the dance form until he was 21.
‘For National Service, I wanted to join the Singapore Armed Forces’ Music and Drama Company, but I failed the auditions for singing, acting and hosting,’ deadpans a ruggedly good-looking Tan. ‘But they needed boys so they let me in.’ He was side-lined into dancing, and then everything happened: he was spotted to receive a scholarship at the Singapore Ballet Academy, and then to study ballet in London. He joined Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) and rose through the ranks. After 18 years with SDT, he left to choreograph for high-profile musicals such as the recent High Class and Army Daze.
Now 44, Tan has just been appointed Associate Artist for The Human Expression (T.H.E) Dance Company, Singapore’s leading contemporary dance group. ‘It’s a completely different genre for me: my style is towards ballet, while T.H.E does contemporary [dance]. Also, T.H.E’s process is very different – it’s a lot more collaborative,’ he elaborates. ‘Ballet dancers take the precise movements you give them and do them perfectly, but in contemporary dance, it’s about exploring with the space and the body.’
As part of T.H.E’s fifth anniversary celebrations, Tan will be one of three choreographers for the piece New Vision, which details the relationship between man and machine by incorporating technology and multimedia into dance. ‘For my piece, [I want to question whether] man or machine should survive,’ he says. ‘We’re the ones who created technology, yet we can’t live without it now.’
He also has a personal challenge. ‘I’ve stopped dancing for six years because of knee injuries. But every time I choreograph someone’s dance moves on stage, I think, “I love it, I want to do it”. So now I work in the afternoons and take morning dance classes at T.H.E. I’ll make sure that when I’m back on stage, I’ll be very presentable.’
T.H.E: New Vision is at The National Museum from 13-15 Sep.
|Event phone:||6332 5642|