Haikal Razali and Francesca Yang: Movers and Shakers
Date: October 5, 2016
They say dance is a universal language. Dancers’ code lie their body movement, no matter how differentiated they are by the various genres and sub-genres that they master. It does seem that revolutionising the art involves breaking through the boundaries of genre, as testified by Haikal Razali and Francesca Yang, dancers and competitors at this year’s Breakout Hip Hop Dance Competition.
Both Haikal and Francesca have battled through their individual journeys in dance. Exuding an urban vibe, Haikal started dancing during his schooling days when he signed up for a lyrical jazz dance class at a studio. He fell in love with dancing and has since honed his craft in hip hop. A key member of his dance crew, Team YOMO (who was the champion at the Blackout Dance Competition), Haikal has been dancing professionally since 2013 and is also a freelance instructor at O School.
Francesca, in contrast, started dancing when she was about three years old and has been involved in Chinese dance, ballet, contemporary and most recently, hip hop. Currently taking a gap year to pursue her passion in the arts, she studied dance as an art form in School of the Arts (SOTA). There, she contributed to the arts scene by being the first organiser, together with her schoolmates, of the Blackout Dance Competition. Her hip hop dance crew, SPUNX, aims to bring a different form of hip hop to the stage as all members have a diverse background in dance.
Keeping Things Fresh
‘Stale’ is a term banished from the vocabulary of Haikal and Francesca – a result of developing an incredible attitude through their dance journeys. Obsessed with moving, constantly evolving, the pair is open to explore and experiment with a variety of dance styles.
Haikal explained, “You have to take classes that are out of your comfort zone. Let’s say I dance hip hop, and maybe I’d drop by a contemporary, reggae or street jazz class. As a dancer, you have to keep on moving.”
“I agree. It’s something that I try to do besides hip hop. In contemporary dance, we push the boundaries and question what dance is and how we can change it from there. This makes us change our mentality and break out from dance steps that we fall back on by default,” continued Francesca.
Despite their dedication to the craft, the dancers are not spared from confronting hurdles and fears along the way. Trying a new dance genre and learning how to move differently from what they have mastered is not easy.
Francesca said, “You really have to put yourself out there. For me, I still find it hard to go to classes alone as it scares me a lot, especially with dancers who are very good. If you really love dance that much, you’d put yourself out there no matter how you look. I believe you should do your best and grow from there.”
Haikal shared, “I do have that same problem at times, but I have to be confident and tell myself that I cannot be shy. Or else, I’ll definitely lose out. I’d just go to class and do my thing. I don’t care. I attend a class to learn and you need to have the right mentality to do that and know your purpose for attending.”
For Francesca, her concerns extend to her pursuit of a full-time career in the arts scene, which she had set her heart on. Braving societal pressure, the dancer admits that the viability of the profession is a challenge that she is currently tackling.
Going with the Flow
All seriousness aside, Haikal and Francesca have had their share of spontaneity and fun. While browsing in a streetwear store called Culture Kings in Melbourne a few months ago, Haikal started grooving to the live DJ set and found himself surrounded by an appreciative audience who clapped along.
Francesca recounted an incident where her friend convinced her to do an impromptu dance at an exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. As they improvised their moves, people started gathering to watch, thinking that they were part of the exhibition.
Pillars of Support
Journeying together with Haikal and Francesca are individuals who have been inspiring pillars of support in their passion. Francesca credits Pamela Khiu, her best friend and a crew leader from SPUNX, for encouraging her through tough times.
Elaborating why Pamela is someone she respects, Francesca said, “She really pushed me to go for hip hop classes even though the beginning was hard and stressful. It was hard for me to catch on and I was on the verge of giving up. She dragged me to classes and said that I was very good for a first-timer. She has been dancing hip hop for a longer time and she does O School recital. I always look up to her because I know that even though it’s hard for her sometimes, she still puts herself out there.”
For Haikal, his main inspiration is the one who has been sticking with him since the beginning. Speaking of Hirzi, who is also from Team YOMO, Haikal said, “We started dancing together nine years ago and we stayed on. Back then, I liked to do lyrical and it was hard as no one appreciated this kind of dance. We didn’t care and just did it. I learned bopping and he did breakdance, so we actually exchanged skills and stuck together till now.”
Besides expressing themselves through their body movements, Haikal and Francesca have also allowed their personal style to convey their individualism. Both are charmed by the versatility and comfort of the latest Converse Chuck II kicks. Just like its predecessor, it ‘matches well with everything’ as Haikal remarked.
He further describes his style, “I’m more of a basic kind of guy. I like white, black, beige – basically earth colours. My shoes need to be black or white – no other colour. I like to wear long tees that make my body look longer. I used to wear Converse quite frequently. I had a few Chuck Taylors high and low cuts. I prefer [the latest Chuck II] as it has padding inside, which makes it more comfortable.”
The versatility of the Chuck II is great news for Francesca, especially since her dress sense spans across a wide spectrum of styles. She said, “I don’t have a specific style. Sometimes I’d go really basic, sometimes I’d go full-on strange, sometimes very girly and sometimes hip hop.”