Brandon Khoo and I meet at T.H.E Dance Company studios on a Friday afternoon for a very nervous interview. Brandon doesn’t like to express himself with words, and by the end of our conversation, he is drenched in sweat reminiscing a marathon runner crossing the finish line.
Brandon Khoo is a graduate of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts ( NAFA), after completing a diploma in dance he fast-tracked his career to the professional stage straight after graduation under the guidance of Kuik Swee Boon with T.H.E. Dance Compay.
I am keen to understand this transition from student to professional dancer, as well as the lifestyle one has to have to maintain maximum performance results in the studio and on stage.
How was your transition straight from dance school to a dance company?
To be honest, I was quite fortunate to have had a smooth transition from dance school to a professional company.
NAFA provided us with a lot of exposure to the industry, particularly with performance opportunities. The key difference would be that in a professional company the direction given is clear and the training more specific, detailed and intricate. In school, the training is foundational and instils the level of discipline and diligent practice to be a good dancer. Being in a company elevates your potential and brings you to the next level.
What do you do with your free time?
First and foremost my main focus is to relax the body and mind. On weekdays after work, I finish my daily chores as quickly as possible to maximise my relaxation time in bed with my best friend – the MASSAGE MACHINE! While the machine works on releasing tightness in my body, I will have jazz music on or playing games on my mobile phone to unwind mentally. On weekends, my favourite past-time is seeking out value buffet deals. I love being able to take my time and work through a huge, hearty meal.
What was the highest moment of your dance career this far?
It would be at 2016’s M1 CONTACT Festival. I performed in two pieces, Kim Jae Duk’s Equilibrium and Arthur Bazin’s Attachant. I felt in full control of my body, and the flow of energy was at its optimum. Because I was so comfortable and confident, I think it showed in my delivery.
What it’s like to work with Swee Boon and Ross McCormack together?
I have been working with Swee Boon for close to 2 years hence I’m familiar with the way he works. He is very particular about the details of the body, but there is also a sense of freedom in his work, because of the ‘hollow body’ concept he has been developing in the past few years. In his piece, Vessel, he has gone beyond just the physical exploration of the hollow body and challenged us to look inward and uncover our personal ‘borderlines’ – to push past our limitations to discover hidden strengths.
With Ross, it’s our first time working together and overall, what he wants to achieve in Area² is more mechanised, almost robotic. During his first residency in March, we watched clips of an octopus having sex, large factory productions lines, and kaleidoscopic visuals to understand how we could achieve the precise sharpness of the ‘staccato’ movement.
Three reasons why people should come and see you at the Festival?
If you have never watched contemporary dance, it’s your best chance to see not only local choreography but also a transnational, cross-discipline collaboration with a New Zealand choreographer and sound designer. You get to experience the best of both worlds. Why not?
You’ll get to see dancers of different nationalities onstage performing with great chemistry, and enjoying each other’s unique personalities.
For regular dance audiences, you’ll witness the personal breakthroughs of each T.H.E dancer, and how we articulate our dance steps according to our individual strengths and beauty.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue promoting T.H.E to overseas audiences as I think there are still many people who do not know that Singapore has this nurturing platform that refines professional dancers and champions local dance.
What is your advice to any dancers out there that wish to join a dance company like T.H.E Dance Company?
Persevere and don’t give up easily – dancers undergo a lot of physical stress but understand that this is part and parcel of being a professional dance artist.
Passion – love what you are doing, and this will expand/extend your lifespan in the dance industry.
Acceptance – be open and enthusiastic to learn and absorb everything you receive.