Off Stage

Miss a step? Don't panic

liTHE, an upcoming production by T.H.E Second Company.
liTHE, an upcoming production by T.H.E Second Company. PHOTO: BERNIE NG

Goh Shou-Yi, 26, is one of three choreographers who will be presenting their works at liTHE, an upcoming performance by T.H.E Second Company.

The other two are Sebastien Ledig from France and Inma Marin from Spain.

Narrow is Goh's second creation for the company, since joining it in 2009. The dancer-choreographer, who holds a bachelor's degree in dance from Purchase College in New York, says that his work is built upon the idea of systemic repetition and repression.

He adds: "Within this restrictive and confined entity, I hope the work provides you with extensive space to reflect upon how narrow is anything but narrow."

Choreographer Goh Shou-Yi (on top) in I See Skies Of Blue. PHOTO: ROBIN P.E. CHEE.

How did you get into dance?

When I was young, I had no knowledge about dance or the arts, absolutely zero. But when I was 12, my mum - and I don't know if I should love her or hate her for this - signed me up for a male ballet class. I was like, "what?" But when you're young, you just listen, you just follow.


    WHERE: GoodmanArts Centre, Black Box

    WHEN: Thursday to Saturday, Thursday and Friday, 8pm; Saturday,3pm and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $28from Peatix (go to

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

A few hours before the show, I will put on headphones, listen to music and try to focus inwards. It is almost like meditation.

Also, before the house opens, I will go out into the audience seats, to try to feel the space from the audience's point of view.

I will find a seat in the middle, right at the back, so that I can see the whole theatre or black box, and I will think about how I am going to fill that space.

How do you overcome your nerves when performing?

I used to be insecure. Before I went on stage, I used to panic. I would feel that everything is not right, I didn't practise enough and the zip on my pants is coming off.

But that was many years back and, now that I have more experience and I'm older, I have learnt to go inwards, and to be more aware of what is happening on the inside instead of the outside.

What happens if you miss a step or forget a move?

I used to panic and try to improvise, but nothing good comes out of just reacting. Now, I will just do nothing and calm down. So if I do something that is not correct, or if I blank out, I will just stop myself and come back to the present.

What is the funniest reaction you have gotten from the audience?

Last year, when I was performing at the M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival, three of my army buddies came to watch. They were seated in the front row, really close to me. I opened the work with a solo and I wasn't wearing anything except a pair of nude shorts. They began laughing, and they tried to make sure I saw them. They looked into my eyes and whispered and gestured. There were a lot of words running through my head, but I went back into myself and tried to look through them.

What did you say to them afterwards?

I said something to them that I think I shouldn't say now. (Laughs) And I told them, "Look, even though you tried to distract me, I can still perform!"

What is the toughest criticism you have faced?

The most memorable one that I've heard is that I'm just "not enough", in terms of dance technique or my physicality. I'm not a big dancer, I'm not tall or buff. So the toughest was when someone told me that I'm not enough and that I should try to do more.

How do you deal with this criticism?

After all these years, I have started to take people's comments a bit more lightly. It's not that I don't care, but they don't weigh on me as much.

This is the start of a weekly column on the lighter, intimate side of the performing arts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Miss a step? Don't panic'. Print Edition | Subscribe