FEATURE: MICHELLE LIM
For today's interview we get together with Michelle Lim (Dance '12)! Our first Singaporean dancer to be accepted into the Juilliard School Dance Division has graduated, and we hear from her what her dance means in her life, and how pursuing her career in New York City has been like.
Freshly Pressed: Hi Michelle, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Where are you now?
Michelle Lim: Hey! Of course, thank you for having me. I am currently based in New York City.
FP: So... congratulations on graduating! Back when you were in Juilliard, how was your time there and how was living in New York like for you?
ML: Thank you! My time at Juilliard was tough and full of personal and artistic discovery. From the very beginning, you are surrounded by high caliber individuals, making it easy to be hard on yourself and doubt your own abilities. At the same time, funny enough, it can also motivate you to strive to become bigger and better. It gives you the chance to recognize what your strengths are and what makes you your own unique self, which is so important to me and my artistic journey. New York has definitely become my home. I am so fortunate and grateful for the sense of family I found in the people I've come across over the past four years. It definitely makes time away from Singapore a lot more bearable.
FP: And now that you're out of school, what have you been up to these days?
ML: I am a freelance artist, so that entails juggling a number of gigs. I am dancing with a company called WHITE WAVE Dance Company. We are currently in preparation for a show in December, as well as a tour to Vancouver in March. Really excited about that! I have also performed with the Merce Cunningham Trust, dancing a piece called "Exchange" as well as "Second Hand". As for my own work, I will be presenting a dance film as well as choreographing a solo to a piece of music composed by a friend of mine this November. I am also working with a dance organization called Springboard Danse Montréal as their Communications Associate. I'm teaching here and there and trying to expand my photography portfolio as well. I've definitely been running around quite a bit and wearing different hats everyday. It's exhausting but so fulfilling!
FP: What does a typical day look like for you, and what do you do when you’re not dancing?
ML: There isn't a typical day! It switches up every now and again depending on what's asked of me. I try to take a class to stay in my practice before I head into rehearsals. This could be ballet, contemporary or modern. When I'm not dancing I'm either taking a workout class, catching up with friends or meeting new people, photographing or working on social media and marketing projects. But let's be honest, when I'm really lazy its Netflix or hulu and an epsom salt bath.
FP: What motivates and inspires you, and what do you hope to achieve with your art?
ML: I hope that through my art– be it dance, choreography, photography or just my daily interactions with others– will forge genuine connections and relationships with people. I am always inspired by the human condition, from our anatomy to our spirituality (whatever that choice is). Hearing from an audience member that my work touched them is one of my favorite feelings and a step towards the right direction for me. I eventually want to take my career towards content creation and entertainment. I have always been fascinated with with multi-media platforms and would want to explore different platforms where I can share my creative work.
FP: Can you share with us one of your favorite pieces you’ve choreographed, and the story behind it?
ML: One of my favorite pieces is called "Case No. 45", choreographed for my Senior Production show, to 2 compositions by Varg and 1 by my brother, Christopher Lim. The initial inspiration behind the piece started from my interest in working with props and lighting. I decided to work with 4 tables and was very specific in the color paint used so as to compliment my lighting decisions. During the process of solidifying a concept and cast of dancers, the U.S. 2017 Presidential Elections was taking its course. This round of elections struck me deeply. I witnessed the negative effects of the elections on many members of my community. Being an international student, I am legally known as a non-resident "alien" in the USA. I am a foreigner but at the same time, I was not part of the more targeted and affected minority groups (Muslims, Mexicans, and Native Americans). I was in a position of being in and out of a situation, both participant and bystander. All of these events accumulated into what my piece ended up being about. The program notes wrote that the piece was "inspired by the current political climate and the strength and perseverance of the people who keep up the fight. It aims to explore the spectrum that lies between conflict and harmony, as well as the effort to hear and be heard."
FP: How has being in dance changed your perspective on life?
ML: To me, the practice of dance is the practice of life. I am starting to see that more clearly now that I am out of school and there's no one to tell me what to do next. There's so many questions unanswered and it's been easy to lose direction. So many attempts have been made to try and carve a career using my own efforts. In dance your learn to be a technician but you also learn how to be human. You can't fake it in dance. You have to put in the time and you have to learn to surrender both physically and emotionally. From there, you just have to let the good times roll. It's incredibly hard because of how vulnerable you have to be. I think it is the same with life. We can go on our days following the motions and doing the tasks. But at the end of the day, dance taught me that you just have to put in the work, lay the foundation, and trust that even when you fall, you know how to get back up.
Photography by David Perkins
FP: What advice would you give juniors aspiring to take on dance as a career?
ML: Choosing dance as a career is like being in a committed relationship, and I don't mean that in the all romantic and blissful kind of way. I've learnt from my parents that relationships are not all gifts and roses. It is the choice to stick it out with your partner through thick and thin. When you love dance, you CHOOSE dance. If you choose to take on dance, go forth knowing it's going to be a ride. You're going to wake up some days and the last thing you want to do is go into the studio. You're going to question yourself. You're going to have to give up a lot of things. You're going to hurt physically and emotionally. But at the end of the day, you have to keep choosing dance. You can't only do it for the fame, the money or the gratification, because those won't be there all the time. I think there's something incredibly beautiful about going through the rubble in search for something good. Take courage and jump into the grind!
FP: Here's the fun question: can you give us a taste of what’s on your workout playlist?
ML: Ooo I have many many many songs. Here's a few tracks i've been listening to recently.
- "I Want To Dance With Somebody" - Whitney Houston (RIDE OR DIE, this song never gets old)
- What Lovers Do (feat. SZA) - Maroon 5
- New Rules - Dua Lipa
- Moonlight - Grace VanderWaal
- Bellyache - Billie Eilish, Marian Hill Remix
- Mi Gente (feat.. Beyoncé) - J Balvin, Willy William
FP: Thanks for chatting with us Michelle! Any closing comments?
ML: It was my pleasure! Hm comments? I guess to say I'm your person if anyone's moving to NYC and needs a guide or a familiar face! Also... Let's make art.