Bent on conquering the local scene and spreading SG pride overseas, STARREseconds has come a long way since their Teenage K-pop Dance Battle Days. But pursuing dance in Singapore is not without its challenges, as this four-piece outfit has found out.
We first met STARREseconds when the group signed up for Teenage K-pop Dance Battle back in 2010. Wowing everyone with their powerful moves and charisma, this talented dance crew won the position of 2nd runner up. In the 7 years since, STARREseconds has made waves in the local dance industry, and brought their name to the global stage through international competitions and performances. And they’ve gone from competitors to guest performers whom aspiring dancers look up to! Ahead, we speak to STARREseconds, who share their thoughts on carving a name for themselves in Singapore, memorable experiences thus far and STARREseconds’ future.
How did the formation of STARREseconds come about?
Akif: We were all friends who shared a common love for K-pop. We got together to dance and make covers and Arina joined us soon after! Soon, we were participating in competitions and K-pop related events. We named ourselves STARREseconds (pronounced as Star Seconds) as we always head up onstage thinking: “You only have seconds to prove your worth. So make every second count and shine like a star.”
Has it always been a lifelong dream to be a dancer?
Sharil: Yes! What started as a hobby slowly evolved into a lifelong ambition. At first, we were unsure if we were good enough. However, we became more confident with our [dance] skills when we started winning competitions and gaining recognition from there.
How did your family and friends react when you guys told them you were going to be a dancer?
Akif: They have always been supportive since day 1. It was [initially] always viewed as a hobby, but through the years they’ve seen how much dance means to us and they take our passion seriously now. I dare say that they are proud of our achievements!
Hakheem: Our friends and family have always stepped up to the plate when we required them to. Through the years, they’ve been our videographer, photographer, makeup artist and more. We’re blessed to have them.
What has been the proudest achievement of your career thus far?
Arina: Winning the opportunity to represent Singapore in a global competition in Korea, and clinching the 2nd place amongst 12 countries.
Sharil: No one seemed to know about Singapore, and we were glad to give recognition to our country.
How has the local dance scene changed from when you first started out?
Sharil: When you compare the local dance scene now versus back then, you can see a striking difference in the dancer’s attitude towards quality and execution of their performances. We can often see local groups putting up professional quality dance covers on YouTube.
Arina: It’s more competitive now and the local dance scene is taken more seriously by both dancers and industry partners alike.
You have had a couple of performances in Korea. How did STARREseconds get selected for these shows and what were some of your highlights from those experiences?
Hakheem: We participated in a dance competition hosted by the Korean Embassy, where the winners were given the opportunity to represent Singapore in another round competing with 12 other countries.
Arina: It was our first time in Korea, so being able to experience the Korean culture in real life and through a screen (like on YouTube or on TV) was unbelievable.
Akif: Visiting the entertainment companies where our favourite artists were, was the highlight for me. So close yet so far!
Having performed in both Korea and Singapore, what are some of the differences between the two groups of fans?
Hakheem: As no one really knew much about Singapore, we didn’t receive much encouragement when we first stepped onstage. However as we started getting into our routine, you could see the fans cheering hard. It shows how honest the Korean fans are – if they love [your performance], they will show it!
Sharil: Compared to Singapore, fans usually start cheering the moment they hear their favourite hits regardless of where it’s held, who’s performing or what’s happening onstage. They are like, “It’s my favourite song and I am going to rock out to it!
What are some misconceptions about the dance industry that you’d like to set straight?
Akif: A popular misconception many have, is that it’s not recognised as a proper career option.
Who’s in charge of the choreography?
Hakheem: Our choreography is handled by Akif, our leader. He is constantly pushing us further – instead of matching the steps to our dance ability, he makes us practice and train to deliver the routine he wants.
Is there a reason why you chose the K-pop dance style over the others?
Arina: K-pop was what started it all. It was the reason why we came together as a group. As we grew older, we did go into different forms of dance and joined other crews competing in other genres. However as STARREseconds, we will always stay true to our K-pop roots.
What are some of the challenges you have faced so far, and how did you overcome them?
Hakheem: When we are engaged for performances, many forget that even a 3 to 5 minute performance requires studio rental, costumes, makeup, hours of practice and time for choreography. And when the performance fee is split amongst the members, you’d realise that many dancers are underpaid. But for the clients, they seem to be paying too much for a ‘mere’ 3 to 5 minutes performance.
Arina: I believe another issue that most dancers currently have (us including), is having proper space to practice our routines. Before being able to practice with mirrors at our manager’s office, we were limited to practicing in Akif’s living room!
What are some of your favorite performances so far?
Sharil: Other than our performance in Korea, one of our most memorable shows was a collaboration that we did with native Korean Taekwondo masters. It was fun preparing and performing a Taekwondo/Kpop performance.
Hakheem: We also love guest performing at dance events, like the Kpop All In (KAI) and of course, Teenage Dance Challenge. It’s very different performing in front of an audience filled with dancers and K-pop lovers. Since they know and enjoy K-pop, the crowd is able to realise and appreciate the subtle but unique changes we insert into our choreography. The audience reactions get us really pumped up onstage!
What can a dancer with no competitive experience expect upon signing up for a dance competition? What are some things to look out for?
Arina: Any dance competition usually starts off with an online registration followed by either a closed door or public audition – after which comes the finals. Whether you are performing to a panel of 3 judges in a closed door audition or in front of a crowd of hundreds, always perform your best and be mindful of your stage presence.
Akif: Do read up on all the rules and requirements! You don’t want to arrive for the auditions only to be disqualified. If you have questions, no matter how unimportant it may seem, do clarify with the organisers prior to the event. Pay extra attention to the judging criteria to see how your performance will be judged. Most importantly, focus on yourself and your crew, regardless of who your competitor may be and/or the order of your lineup. Work the stage to make it work for you!
What’s a piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout the years?
Hakheem: Truth be told, we have gotten numerous feedback – both negative and positive – through the years. There are two quotes in particular, one by a fan and the other by a close friend. “Be so good, that they never forget”, and “Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you”.
Do you have any tips for budding dancers who are trying to get their name out in the industry?
Arina: We are friends first, and competitors second. The dance scene is prominent but relatively small in Singapore. After our close friends and family, our fellow competitors were our first fans – we are fans of them as well.
Sharil: We are active on social media and we always try our best to find time after events to meet and thank fans who came down to support us.
What are some of your most memorable fan encounters?
Arina: We are so blessed to have amazing fans! They come surprising us with gifts, food and drinks. We are so thankful to have their support.
What are some of your best memories from Teenage Dance Challenge?
Akif: Getting to perform as a guest was one of our biggest honours. From competing to being a guest performer was a major accomplishment to us.
How did your participation in Teenage Dance Challenge help to take your career to the next level?
Akif: Our relationship with TDC has changed from being a competitor to now performing and even participating as a judge. This step up has been an amazing journey and has definitely elevated our members into role models for budding dancers. We are truly humbled by this, and we still have much to learn.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give to the new wave of Teenage Dance Challenge contestants?
Sharil: Just have fun and do your very best. Own the stage!
What’s next in the pipeline for STARREseconds?
Akif: As a group, we hope to participate in more overseas events and to represent Singapore. We also hope to be more recognised locally and to gain the support of companies to assist us in branching out further.
Are you an aspiring dancer? It’s time to step up like STARREseconds and slay the stage. Sign up now for the upcoming Teenage Dance Challenge and show the world what you’re made of!
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