Photo: Daniel Ho
After performing internationally for four years, Adelene Stanley is back home with a better sense of self and a new take on the local dance scene - movement therapy.
At 18, the professional dancer graduated from Rambert School in London and was scouted by UK-based INALA Dance Company. She became the only Singaporean to be offered a contract in INALA's award winning and Grammy-nominated A Zulu Ballet.
Now, the 23-year-old doesn't regard dance as just mere performance art - she is one of the youngest dancers in the world who's using movement therapy to help non-dancers reconnect with their bodies.
So what is movement therapy and what has it got to do with dancing? It's a form of therapy that involves using dance moves to help a person deal with disability, stress and even coming to terms with themselves. But it's not just about alleviating pain, movement therapy also helps able persons to relax and re-connect with their body. Think yoga but less strength and more relaxation.
In Singapore, Adelene has partnered with gyms to teach classes as she is bent on helping non-dancers get in touch with their bodies.
“I’m currently doing my own research on movement therapy, it is something that has peaked my interest in the past year and I want to explore movement therapy practices in my own teaching. I eventually want to solidify a movement therapy class that is accessible to everyone (dancer, non-dancer) to increase body flow and awareness"
Since the start of the year, she's tied up with a gym called LEVEL and ClassPass, and started to conduct these classes.
And you may think, dancing and teaching dance are so different. But Adelene is no stranger to trying new things. When it comes to what she does, her "comfort zone is quite large". The classically trained dancer has even gone through a tedious routine of dancing as half human and half cyborg.
Other than that, she's also a model for lingerie brand Perk by Kate and has been working on upcoming commercial projects.
Collaborate, collaborate and collaborate
Photo: Daniel Ho
Her love for multidisciplinary work comes from her experience with other creatives. To Adelene, dancers should be flexible (literally and figuratively). And being a good dancer means that you have to sacrifice the limelight. More often than not, adding value to another’s work is also a part of a dancer’s job.
“I like thinking of dance as being part of something and helping to enhance rather than dance by itself, which is why I find it very enjoyable and rewarding when collaborating with other creatives such as musicians, designers, filmmakers, etc.,” she says.
Don't just dance on one stage
Photo: Daniel Ho
She also encourages fellow Singaporean dancers to explore opportunities overseas. Dancing with INALA, a UK based dance company, for five years has given her opportunities like performing alongside the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo (a four-time Grammy winning choir), dancing for the Royal Family and going on international dance tours.
Her experience outside of the local dance scene has given her valuable insights on how to refine her personal approach to dance.
“I have come to realise that different countries and cultures show different levels of appreciation in the art form. Some countries, particularly European ones, are more open minded when it comes to perceiving dance and appreciating abstract or cutting edge works. While countries in Asia may still prefer watching the tradition more classical ballet and modern dance,” she says. The dance chameleon recognises the importance of traditional dancing but also wishes to incorporate new styles into her personal dance technique.
And although Adelene has received prestigious scholarships, the humble dancer doesn’t consider herself as a prodigy. “While in school, I was very lucky to have been scouted early for various opportunities to work with companies and choreographers. I was given creative platforms to showcase my choreographic work internationally and to teach dance workshops. I was also offered scholarships for various summer intensives, one of which was for Nederlands Dance Theater.”
“All of these experiences contributed to the artist I am today, and the growth hasn’t stopped and it shouldn’t stop — we all continue to grow everyday, with every challenge or situation.”
Stand out by being yourself
Her tip to aspiring dancers? Don’t be apologetic if you want to try something new, as long as you’re being yourself.
“Be unapologetically yourself — in the competitive world of dance, the best thing you can do is show off your unique qualities and let that play to your advantage. Don’t try to emulate other dancers. Be confident in yourself and your technique,” she says.
To all the dancers out there, keep being yourselves.