A dance group is taking Kota Kinabalu by storm for the last few years. They have been performing regularly at Sabah major events. They also produce several dance shows every year. In this features article, we meet up with the Artistic Directory and Founder of Synergy Dance Studio to know the story behind this dance group.
What is your name and your role in this studio?
My name is Christopher Liew. I’m the Artistic Director and Founder of Synergy Dance Studio.
Tell us more about yourself. How did at all started?
Being a dancer is never in my ambition list back in school. Though being an active dance performer in secondary school, I was just helping out in dance club as they lack male members. When trying to choreograph a dance during my last year in secondary school, I realized that I know nothing about dance choreography. Then I went looking for dance choreography books from libraries in Kota Kinabalu but found only 3 which I could not understand at all. Seeing that Kota Kinabalu lacks a dance teacher who devotes all time on teaching dance professionally, I decided to study dancing in university to make a difference to the dance scene in Sabah. Being a science stream student myself, it was a hard decision to switch to an art major. I am grateful for the understanding and support from my family. In 1999, I went to the Chinese Cultural University in Taiwan. It was really an eye opener as taiwanese start their art schooling very early and they have very good basic technical skills. Comparing to my classmates who took ballet lessons since kindergarten, I was a big boy who started intensive stretching at the age of 20. It was a suffering! After 5 years of legs and eyes opening experiences in Taiwan, I graduated and came straight back to Sabah and founded Synergy Dance Studio as it’s always my plan to develop and kickstart a greater dancing scene in Sabah. I started off by approaching my former primary school to help them start a dancing club. So far it’s been a rewarding experience for my students and I.
Tell us more about Synergy Dance Studio. What is so special about it?
Synergy Dance Studio currently consists of Borneo Dance Theatre, Synergy Dance Theatre (SDT) and our student dance teams. Our goal is to develop creative talents of young Sabahan in dance, choreography and all the skills in supporting a dance performance production. We aim to organize at least two performances every year which include SDT’s annual performance and “Dance Delight”. In 2009, we organised the first “Primitive Bond Art Festival” which promotes arts among the public and seeks for bonding between different art forms and art groups. The Borneo Dance Theatre was founded in August 2012 as the first full-time professional dance theatre in Borneo. Currently we have 3 professional dancers including myself, Miss Chan Suk Ling and Mr Afham bin Zainal Abidin. We wish to share our original art pieces with the world through multimedia productions to promote the unique culture and other special facets of Borneo. Being based in Kota Kinabalu, we have to start from a blank sheet of paper. We didn’t enjoy support from sponsors and government as people still didn’t understand much about dancing. It’s a good learning curve for us as we have to learn everything by ourselves, from choreography, music, marketing, stage lighting and photography. We love it because by doing these, we didn’t need to wait for others for help and we can control our own production and improve a lot over the years. Instead of complaining why Sabah didn’t have this and that, we appreciate that we can be the first to create performances which are appreciated by the locals. We are always pushing for new ideas. So far we get very good feedback from our audiences and most of our shows are sold out. Our aim is to cross over to West Malaysia and hopefully overseas where we can incorporate Sabah culture into our dance so people can understand Sabah better.
What do you think about the dance performance and education scene in Sabah?
Schools in Sabah have proven that we can win national dance awards. Through regular and systematic training, the skill level of dancers can be improved drastically. In Sabah, the appreciation of dance is still under potential. By focusing on young student dancers, the influence will surely grow to parents and the general public. Dancing as a performing art requires tremendous discipline. After some time, the learning of dancing becomes a self-discipline process to the student. It makes them physically and mentally tough. I believe through dancing and training in arts, Sabahan youth will achieve more than academic excellence in having a strong character, with full understanding of teamwork, perseverance and focus. Parents play a big role in supporting and encouraging their kids in dancing and I can say this has really improved these few years.
Any advice for youngsters who want to pursue their interest, for example dancing?
My advice is simple: just follow your dream but don’t abandon your studies. I always advise youngsters not to be afraid to try out new ideas. Do what you love and slowly find what you really want to do. You can have your interest and studies at the same time. If they want to pursue their studies after training as a dancer at school, I would say go ahead. Life is always changing and we have to find what we really want to do through different stages of life.
What do you love about Sabah?
I love the food and culture here. I realized my love for Sabah food and culture when being away from Sabah. Recently I am in love with the history of Sabah people too. After digging a ton of information from various written sources and people, I come to realize that there are a lot of hidden stories about people who once lived here on this same land as we do, especially during the 2nd World War. Their passions for this land and their life stories have inspired me to love and cherish this peaceful land more. I believe once we establish a stronger connection to this land through history and culture, we will love Sabah even more!
To contact and get to know more about Synergy Dance Studio, visit their website at http://mysynergydance.com/