Dance student. Star Search runner-up. Actor. That is quite an impressive list of accomplishments for a twenty-something. But life has not always been smooth-sailing for Diploma in Dance student Herman Keh whose road to being in the performing arts was fraught with parental objection and naysayers.
On the cusp of his graduation, Herman looks back on his hard-won journey, how he has grown as a performer in the past three years at LASALLE and what it means to be determined and committed in one's pursuit.
Hi Herman, to many pragmatic Singaporeans, it is unusual to enrol in a diploma programme after having graduated from junior college (JC). Why did you choose Diploma in Dance at LASALLE?
I personally feel that even though education is important, many people make choices influenced by societal pressure to conform. After graduating from JC, I was thinking of going to a private university and pursuing dance only as a hobby or co-curricular activity. But the more I thought about it, the more convinced I was to pursue dance full-time as it was something I believed in. Being in a dance diploma programme allows me to strengthen my foundation and offers me the freedom to explore different genres of dance as compared to doing a BA(Hons) where it is much more specialised.
How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to study dance full-time?
In the beginning when I told my parents about my plans to pursue dance full-time, they said no, and so did my extended family and everyone else around me. My aunt even said, “There’s no future in dance.”
So I went to audition at LASALLE on my own without telling anyone. It was only after I secured a place in LASALLE that I informed my parents. I reassured them that I was passionate and committed to pursuing dance. It’s not something that I would do for a year or two, or dabble for fun then move on to other interests. For me, dance was truly something that I wanted to pursue as a career. Over time, my parents have gradually come around to support my decision and these days they even ask about my day and what I learnt in class!
How has dance made you a better all-around performer?
LASALLE really drills into the deeper aspects of technique and theory. I learnt how to analyse myself as a performer, for example, by understanding my own body through dance science. This has helped me to move more efficiently and avoid aggravating injuries. Mentally, being more analytical also helps to break down the different aspects of dance choreography – for example, where should dancers be positioned, how can the stage be maximised, does the music convey our dance moves and so much more. As a result of the foundation and training taught at LASALLE, I feel that I have grown so much as a performer and choreographer.
Has anyone made a big impact on you during your time at LASALLE?
During my second year in LASALLE, I was really inspired by my contemporary dance teacher, (Young Artist Award winner and LASALLE alumnus) Zhuo Zihao. At the beginning it was superficial – I liked the movements that he taught. But as lessons progressed and I began to talk to him, I realised that even though he is a man of few words, he is actually constantly analysing. He taught me how to love yourself and your body in order to be confident, as well as how to apply this mentality to dance. By imparting his wisdom, Zihao taught me the skills to improve myself. The most important takeaway was that if you are able to relate dance to yourself, then you will be able to move and showcase your intentions more effectively for an impactful performance.
You will be graduating in 2020. What’s your most fondest memory of your time in LASALLE?
That would be the recent production of On the Edge. For the production, I was happy to work together with my peers to teach secondary school students choreography which culminated in a show they performed for their friends and teachers.
Any advice to your juniors who are looking to join the same programme as you?
Always remember the reason why you want to pursue dance as a full-time career and learn all that you can while in school. For me, it was to acquire the knowledge and techniques and use it to teach others. So you need to find your own conviction, believe in yourself and do your best in school.