I studied ballet as a child and continued right up until Grade 5 (I took the Royal Academy of Dance exams) before stopping completely as I entered boarding school. The only Malay girl in the class of twenty or so of Chinese girls, also the roundest, plumpest, cutest of the lot. The one with one of the best moves but lowest stamina.
My asthmatic condition restricted the amount of sports I could do without ending up a wheezing heap. After bugging my mum how I’d love to learn how to dance like the graceful dancers on stage after watching Swan Lake when I was four (I think) and my mum signed me up for lessons not long after that. I can’t remember exactly how I had mummy to sign me up for piano lessons, but I started both around the same time with one hour lessons for each on a weekly basis.
As I advanced into Grade 4, my grandparents expressed that I should be spending more time on my academics instead of dancing. There aref times I can become exhausted juggling practices, extra-curricular activities at school, and school work. There were comments that leotards were too revealing et cetera et cetera. For some reason I agreed to what was said by my grandparents and nearly quit but my mum forced me to continue. Grade 5, my ballet teacher told me I was not ready for the exams and should spend another year of training. I insisted on taking it. Received a Distinction (like a First Class) for my final exam. Yeahhh little round dancing blob bouncing across the dancefloor LIKE A BOSS.
My piano teachers have always been strict. I remembered being hit, being shouted at, had the notes scribbled onto my fingers with marker pens, I’ve cried several times during lessons. I admit to being an absolute horror at committing myself to practice, and all I played was exam pieces and songs from other books my teachers teach me. I was never one to explore other manuscripts, until I was in Grade 6 (I took ABRSM for Piano) when my teacher noted that I was skilled enough and should be attempting to play pieces outside the syllabus. Sure, I failed my Grade 6 Theory exams and I can’t play Rimsy-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee to perfection, at least I’m not a robot when I play. I’ve heard many brilliant technical executions but for the same chords my notes carry more emotion than the show-offs (although sometimes when I play I look stiff and my expression looks stoned depending on the level of difficulty of the piece I’m playing).
My singing have been a disaster throughout the years which I took my practical examinations (it is the vocal section of the exams). Somehow I noticed after I stopped taking exams I began to sight-read better and I could sing almost perfect tune by reading the notes off the manuscript. I can also harmonise well with another person singing.
Around 8 or 9, I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my left year, surprise surprise. I’ve been dancing and playing music for a few years already and it was pretty bad when it was diagnosed. Latest check up last year revealed hearing loss in both ears. I wore a hearing aid (just for my left ear) in secondary two but took it off for after a while. Life without perfect hearing is peaceful. I don’t hear the air-condition and refrigerator humming in the background, I don’t hear the footsteps of my neighbour going up and down the stairs outside the apartment, I don’t hear people spreading half-truths behind my back.
I’m not sure how I get about these days, either people around me are naturally loud or I lip-read all the time.