Confessions of a professional dancer: Just 4 hours sleep during competitions
It was just an ordinary day of practice for Andreas Chua until she heard a loud tearing sound from her thigh.
She tore her muscle while doing a split - a position in which the legs are in line while extended in opposite directions.
Chua, a 26-year-old professional dancer, choreographer and dance instructor, says: "I thought I had torn my jeans until I tried walking and ended up limping instead.
"When I get an injury, I try to sleep off the pain and bear with it to continue dancing the next day."
That was in 2012, and she says it still hurts. Yes, dancers can sustain serious injuries.
Chua, who quit school at 18 to pursue her passion, has had her fair share of injuries from doing flips and other stunts. Her forte is street jazz, but she mixes hip hop into her routines too.
She has participated in more than 30 competitions including Singapore Dance Delight - an international street dance event drawing participants from as far as France and the US - and The Dance Floor, Mediacorp's dance competition on Channel 5.
She has also choreographed for her crews: Limited Edition, Sovereign, Femmex and Stiletto.
Chua performed with Limited Edition, and they emerged champions in competitions such as Super 24 in 2015 and EPIC: The Dance Showdown in 2013.
She says: "During competitions, dancers have to adapt to changes in the routine quickly. For example, during the last week of practice for the Super 24 finals, Limited Edition had to learn routines to three new songs in just five days."
She adds that when competitions are nearing, she often has little sleep, four hours or less.
Besides planning dance routines, she has to mix the music too.
WANT TO JOIN?
She says if you are thinking of joining Limited Edition, don't expect sweet words of encouragement because "there won't be any sugar coating, just straightforward and not-so-pleasant remarks".
But the bluntness really helps dancers grow, says Chua.
On top of her commitment to competitions, Chua also works as an instructor and freelance choreographer. She teaches Street Jazz and Hot Heels at dance studio Danz People and does freelance shows for clients such as W Singapore - Sentosa Cove and Skechers.
As an instructor, she says some students "will complain about how fast or hard my choreography is".
"There are tons of demanding clients. Most clients are not dancers so they don't know how things work.
"So you have to 'forgive' them and just put up a good performance.
"But in this journey, I also get to meet many awesome clients. Some even became my friends," she says.
She is also challenged by the constant need to come up with new ideas and choreography.
She says: "There are moments when I lose inspiration for choreography and that is when I take breaks because they are so important for regaining creativity.
"As of now, there is absolutely no plan to stop dancing, but I want to venture into filming and directing."
This year, Chua plans to organise a production by Limited Edition and also represent Singapore in international competitions such as Hip Hop International and World of Dance.
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1. Be versatile. Explore different genres and styles to expand your learning as a dancer.
2. Go for dance classes and make friends. If you are really passionate, you may start forming a dance crew on your own.
3. Always do your research or seek guidance before trying a stunt because you won't know what injuries it may bring without using the proper technique.