Representing Singapore is no small feat, and dancer Adelene Stanley did just that on a literal global stage when she became the youngest dancer in the original cast of INALA – a Zulu Ballet back in 2014. Having returned to Singapore in 2016, she shares how she turned a passion into a profession.
5 November 2019 / By SGN
Growing up, Adelene Stanley always wanted to dance, and attended ballet classes since she was just 3 years old!
At the age of 13, she took her first big leap and enrolled into Singapore’s School of the Arts where she trained primarily in classical ballet and modern dance. At 16, she made the life-changing decision to move away from home for full-time vocational training at the Rambert School in London.
“There was no turning back! I think it became very real for me at 17 when I got invited to perform a self-choreographed solo in Poland. After the show, a lady came backstage to look for me and expressed how incredibly moved she was and that she cried throughout my entire performance. That was when I told myself I’d want to do this forever. Till today it reminds me how much impact I can make through this art form. No regrets.”
“I love how liberating it makes me feel — the ability to use my body and movements to communicate ideas and tell stories.”
The 24-year-old freelance artist returned to Singapore in 2016. She shares three lessons on how to turn passion into profession.
1. Have a diversity of experiences
Moving away from Singapore at such a young age was difficult for a teenage Adelene, but it gave her a deep appreciation for the diverse range of experiences.
“Training in London was tough and intense, in a good way. Living overseas has made me adaptable and versatile in any situation.”
She believes that exploring learning opportunities overseas is a must for any dancer as different styles of dance are appreciated by the various countries and cultures. Adelene feels European societies may be more open to abstract and cutting-edge performances, while Asian countries prefer watching classical ballet and modern dance.
Dancers who have overseas experiences also get to network with a broader range of contacts and gives them more perspective on the industry. This helps them assess if they want to take up a career in the performing arts.
“I’ve worked in Europe where compensation for work pushes artists to continually up their game— they’re paid a wage that encourages them to keep pushing individual boundaries that in turn, increases the standard of the whole ecosystem. You get amazing artists who are fighting to prove themselves.”
“This is home – my family lives here and it’s where I grew up.”
2. Know your self-worth
Coming back home to Singapore meant challenging herself to do more. But Adelene also realised that she couldn’t stay overseas forever.
“Even though I already had a job in London, and it was hard to change gears, I told myself I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond than a little fish in the huge ocean. I realised I could contribute in much greater ways here at home than if I continued overseas.”
But first, she had to overcome her most difficult hurdle.
“The biggest challenge is knowing your self-worth. In the world of dance, everything is very competitive, and rejection is a very real thing you face often. Self-doubt tends to kick in and you start questioning your own abilities.”
Having experienced so much in her early years, what advice would Adelene give to Singaporeans hoping to forge a career in dance? Simply that they should not try to emulate other dancers. Instead, aspiring dancers should show off their unique qualities, and be confident in what they can do.
“Don’t doubt yourself and go for it. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? It’s better to try then fail than not to try at all!”
“I fell in love with dance when I found total connection between my mind body and soul.”
3. Set clear goals for yourself
Adelene has found that the key to be a professional dancer is to be clear of who you’re performing for.
“You think a lot more about the people watching you and the potential impact it might have on others. There are more things to be considered and you’re dancing for reasons bigger than yourself.”
It’s this singular focus on one’s clear goals that drives her in all she does. Even in times of injury, she reveals, setting clear goals will help you on the road to recovery.
“I had a nasty fall in 2014 where my knee gashed open and I had to get 19 stitches. It took some weeks for me to even start walking properly! What helped was having a good support network, rehabilitation and setting a clear goal – I didn’t want to miss the chance to perform in Russia with my company. That goal helped me power through my rehabilitation, and I recovered in time!”
Now back in Singapore, one of Adelene’s goals is to give back to the country.
“I’d like to root myself a bit more in Singapore to grow my business here. I’ve recently started working with brands like Porsche and Shiseido, helping them with creative consultation work on product launches. I’ve also been expanding my movement therapy work in Singapore, with workshops at Club Med.”
Movement therapy is a class that allows people to rediscover their bodies in a safe space, through dance improvisation. It helps them relax and have some form of emotional release and is suitable for both dancers and non-dancers alike. Adelene is hoping to open a studio of her own with movement therapy at the core.
What a 24-year old married dancer balancing a freelance career in performance, choreography, coaching and consultation work looks like
At the end of the day, for Adelene, it all comes back to her love for performing. Earlier this year, she made her exciting debut on the West End in London and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore with INALA – A Zulu Ballet. Most recently, INALA also held their performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and it was a mind-blowing experience for her, with an audience of over 5,000 people giving them a standing ovation!
“INALA is something that I’ve invested so much of myself into, emotionally, physically and mentally, and it means a lot to me that my friends and family here got to see it. Performing in Singapore will have a very special place in my heart.”