Making His Moves

Published on 26 July 2017

Photo: Ryan Ang

Dancer Andy Cai works round the clock to teach, perform and choreograph major productions.

By Jo Tan

My first experience of dancing was for an anti-drug dance competition in secondary school. They needed boys, so I joined and we actually won cash prizes,” recalls Andy Cai. “I thought, ‘Wow! I want to keep dancing, what an easy way to get money.’”

Unfortunately, that impression was not long-lasting. While the naturally talented Cai easily scored a scholarship at Jitterbugs Swingapore soon after that competition, the rest of his dance journey was anything but a breeze.

“The scholarship introduced me to jazz, salsa, ballet, and other genres. I realised I loved the challenge, I loved dance. But when I wanted to go to LASALLE [College of the Arts] to continue dance studies seriously, my parents were against it. I enrolled anyway, dancing in LASALLE nine to five. After that, I would go to the classes in the Jitterbugs scholarship programme. Then, to pay my school fees, I would work the night shift at 7-Eleven till about 5am. For months, I got maybe two hours of sleep a day.”

Cai’s body started to shut down, but thankfully, his best friend and fellow dancer Dapheny Chen noticed. She told her father, who offered to pay Cai’s school fees upfront — an investment that paid off handsomely. Cai is now one of Singapore’s most sought-after choreographers, and an acclaimed dancer. Not only did his and Chen’s crew Soul Fusion emerge among the top five finalists in televised dance contest The Dance Floor, Cai also received the Best Dancer Award, specially created to celebrate his standout performance in the group contest. The cash prize allowed him to finish paying off his debt to Chen’s father.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Cai to once again be overworked, but this time by choice. “I’m currently teaching the young dancers of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and CHIJ Toa Payoh, while serving as chief choreographer for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP). This is considered manageable: I once simultaneously choreographed three musicals — The LKY Musical, Nanyang and December Rains — while teaching at schools. It doesn’t help that I always prepare four sets of choreography to prepare for any contingency, or that I also co-own Dorothy’s Bar where I help out after hours.”

And he wants more. “I’m about to begin taking ballroom dance and aerial performance classes to widen my dance repertoire. People think that once you start choreographing, you no longer perform. I’m still young and I want to do both! I was so happy to be part of the dance ensemble in La Cage Aux Folles this year while juggling teaching, choreographing Detention Katong and NDP. What can I say? I’m a workaholic.”

Catch the live telecast of NDP 2017 on 9 August. See www.mediacorp.sg for updates.

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