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At 16, SOTA pupil Thaddaeus Low is bound for the world-renowned Rambert Ballet School in London

by Paul Gilfeather
Today
June 12, 2011

Thaddaeus Low is a young man with exceptional talent and huge ambition. But what’s refreshing about the teenage protégé is that his ambition is neither naked, nor greater than his commitment to his art, which happens to be classical ballet and contemporary dance.

Maybe, just maybe, in those quiet moments alone he allows himself to briefly walk on red carpets, clutch golden statues or wave to fans from a limousine window. But mostly, Thaddaeus just wants to do what he loves most – and that is to dance. For this uncomplicated youngster it is that simple.

Finding such passion and tireless dedication in a 16-year-old boy is unusual. He is pushing his body towards breaking point – the point where the dancer knows if he has what it takes to reach the very top.

“It’s very hard to explain,” he says. “When I am performing or in everyday class, the regime pushes you a little bit more. You just strive to be better. And it’s difficult. But the difficulty is part of the fun.

“Dance is something where you are constantly learning and, for me, it is a process to be the very best at what I do. I don’t have time for anything else. If you want to dance professionally you have to dedicate all your time to it. It is something I have to do every single day.”

The Singaporean schoolboy will perform a pirouette into the next stage of his career this September when he takes his much-coveted place at the world-renowned Rambert Ballet School in London.

He will leave behind his mum, who works as a secretary, and his older brother and sister. None have a particular interest in dance but all have supported him.

But the youngster from Katong still has much to do if he is to become the first artistic great to drop off the ground-breaking School of the Arts’ (Sota) conveyor belt of talent.

HYPERACTIVE AT AGE THREE

His mother sent him to dance classes at the tender age of three when most boys that age are still trying to walk in a straight line. It was an attempt to get some peace and quiet from her boisterous toddler as she raised her family as a single parent. “I was hyperactive,” he admits. “She wanted an outlet for me to channel my energy.”

The jazz, tap and ballet lessons were a huge success and, by the age of seven, his teachers saw that he possessed something special.

He auditioned for Sota at the age of 11, by which time he had begun to concentrate on ballet and contemporary dance. Thaddaeus was one of only two boys deemed talented enough for that year’s intake.

Physically, he is strong. In fact, he has calf muscles most professional footballers would kill for. And the punishing regime he practises every day has also left Thaddaeus with a slightly tougher exterior than most teenagers. He is polite and boasts a friendly smile, but you get the feeling he has an inner steel which will serve him well in the years ahead.

He says: “When I was younger it was fairly hard for me at school because there is this stereotype that male dancers are all gay. All my primary school friends always thought that because I danced and I had to live with that stereotype.

“But after they saw me perform in school they realised that this is what I do and it was my passion. They understood this.”

BREAKING POINT

When the last of the pupils at the School of the Arts have left for the evening, and the janitor is dragging a brush over the floors, the young dancer continues his never-say-die drive to succeed in the studio. His commitment to dance is total and he is 100-per-cent focused on his ultimate goal, which is to join a professional dance company, maybe in Europe.

But he is fortunate to be taught and mentored by Sota’s head of dance faculty, Ms Cheah Mei Sing. Ms Cheah, herself a former professional dancer, knows how tough it can be for young dancers trying to break into the professional scene and, as well as teaching Thaddaeus technique, helps the youngster prepare for the hard knocks which may await him in the real world.

Talking about her star pupil, she says: “It’s not a case of Thaddaeus choosing dance. Dance has chosen him. “He has a strict regime which he must carry out every day to keep his body at the optimum level. Any artist has to practise their craft, so for dancers your body is your instrument. You have to hone it every day to get it into that place where you can deliver.

“There is a misconception that dance is easy but that is the skill – making it look easy. Behind the performance you don’t see how many hours they train. He also has to develop different styles. It is no longer the age where you just specialise in one kind of dance.”

When a dancer reaches the point of ultimate fitness they call it “breaking the body”. Cheah says that only when Thaddaeus experiences his limit will he truly know if he has what it takes.

“When you are a dancer you need to be broken, to put it cruelly. But then the dancer will rise up and, if they are good enough, go on to that next level.”

Copyright ©2011 MediaCorp Press Ltd

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