Anthea Seah is a dance artist with T.H.E Dance Company; we meet on a Friday afternoon to have a conversation about her career and working as a full-time contemporary dancer in Singapore.
Anthea has a fascinating venture into the dance world. While studying engineering at NTU, she started taking dance classes, and once she was finishing her exams in the last year of engineering school, she took a leap of faith and became a professional dancer.
Moving across from engineering to dance seems an incredible step off freedom and creativity, she says ‘when I reflect upon myself, I am methodical. I try to compartmentalise a bit, I am still an engineer but only outside the studio in my normal life.’
Anthea Seah joined LASALLE College of the Arts and graduated with a BA Hons in Dance, joining T.H.E. Dance Company in 2015. She confesses that the transition from dance school to dancing full-time ‘ was physical, dancing from nine to five. I lost a lot of weight, and started to building more awareness.’
Last December I had an unbelievable experience viewing Anthea dancing on stage with fellow dance artist Wu Mi in ‘Pure’ by Kuik Swee Boon. I cried when I saw them dancing so close to each other, and I was touched. I can’t deconstruct this enjoyment since I was craving to witness something this emotional and personal on stage for a long time. Anthea seems very flattered and out of words with my admiration for her performance and dedication to the art form.
She acknowledges that it was a challenge to dive into this piece with her personality, encompassing Wu Mi on her dance while he was looking for a breakthrough. The sensations of this piece were palpable – giving me goosebumps and tears of joy.
Anthea asserts that dancing ‘Pure’ was ‘ a surreal feeling, imagining to be in a private room but sharing it with all the audience, it’s challenging to share intimacy with a large group of people.’
Inspiration is fundamental for a dance artist, and Anthea finds it in unexpected places ‘ When an artist comes in with a distinct image, something interesting to grab on to jump into with my imagination’. Outside the dance context, inspiration seems to be found in rare moments enjoying other artforms or reading a book.
Coincidentally we have both read the same writer and spend a good deal of time discussing our impressions on Haruki Murakami, specifically 1Q84 and how Aomame’s regular life and fantasy can become a perfect marriage, and one can’t tell the difference between the two realities.
Anthea is very sure of herself, as a result of spending years dancing, investigating and serving choreographies with her ideas. She keeps her breakthroughs in the pocket and the low moments are managed with passion and more dedication, she says ‘If I can’t give 100% on one section I try to focus on the experience instead, or I will go all out physically.’
As an active educator in the dance scene in Singapore, she has some advice to share with young graduates, ‘Transitioning from a different practice is super exciting because you have a new passion for facing the challenges. The difficulty is to be continuously open to exploring. In Singapore, we are still in the process of defining our dance language. It is important to be open to evolving with the companies and above all to develop your voice as an artist.’
‘I am a dance artist – I approach art through my body and I make my experiences visceral.’
She is still defining the creative processes in workshops with the company to identify the Hollow Body a principle that Kuik Swee Boon puts the dancers through to bring out the essential vocabulary of the company dancers, the most honest expression, letting go of one’s mind and bringing out an animalistic desire to explore.
On my last question, I ask Anthea Seah if she ever holds back, and the unsurprising answer is no. She always presents this creative process on stage – Hollow Body creating meaningful and unique experiences of dance. ‘Swee Boon can tell straight away whether you are experiencing the Hollow Body or whether you are performing it.’
M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival 2 June – 7 July https://the-contact.org/