AGHEMMMM *Puts on my David Attenborough voice*
When the sun has set and the students have left the campus, a certain species of nocturnal animal emerges from their hiding. These creatures known as homosaltators, colloquially called dancers, are a mystery to most of SMU’s populace.
Who are they? Where do they come from? Why are they always here? What are those strange hand and leg movements (perhaps an elaborate mating ritual)? How are their clothes always so baggy?
No proper scientific documentation has been done to answer these questions. As such, as a final year student with too much time on his hands, I have volunteered to roam the basement to answer the question: SMU basement dancers, who are you?
The BLDC Salsa Team.
I approached the pack of femme fatales cautiously. One wrong move and they would realise that I was completely winging my interviews. I took a deep breath and asked the first question.
Do y’all like coffee or tea?
BLDC Salsa Team: Most of us prefer tea. But in the mornings it’s always coffee with milk or nothing.
Why are y’all here?
BLDC Salsa Team: Air condition, clean floors, respectful people, and most importantly it’s free. We come here occasionally to dance, but today we are here to prepare for our performance tomorrow.
What’s the difference between salsa and other dance styles?
BLDC Salsa Team: Most of the dancers we see here practise freestyle stuff. Salsa is more about choreography, refinement and formation. We also have cute sparkly shiny dresses! We usually save those for big events.
What other hobbies do y’all have?
BLDC Salsa Team: When we are not salsa-ing? None really. We all work full-time jobs. Whatever time we have left, we use to salsa. Salsa is life.
Why is it called Salsa? Isn’t that a sauce?
BLDC Salsa Team: Oh my god, I actually don’t know.
Bryan the Dancer
As my camera crew and I approached the group of dancers, most of them fled. Fortunately, one of them (whom we assume is the Alpha Male) stood his ground.
Who are you? Why are you here?
Bryan: I am Bryan, I was an SIT student, and I’m currently working. The SMU basement is one of the best places to dance; it has aircon, wall plugs, and enough space to train. Also, it has mirrors for us to check our form and technique.
How did you find out about this place?
Bryan: When I first started out, a bunch of senior dancers invited me here to dance. I’ve been coming here ever since. I’ve been inviting friends to tag along as well.
What kinda style do you dance?
Bryan: I specialise in popping. Popping is the contracting and relaxing of your muscles quickly. I started dancing only in Uni, but I’ve been dancing ever since, as it's my way to express myself and relax.
Anything you would like to say to SMU students?
Bryan: Thank you for sharing the space with us! Oh and thanks for paying your school fees!
Michelle and Carhartt
These two dancers had an allergic reaction to the camera. As such, my crew and I were forced to digitally "recreate" them. The caricatures are uncannily similar to the actual subject.
Michelle and Carhartt: We are adulting adults. Our main genres are hip hop and freestyle. We’ve been dancing for about 7 years. We aren’t professionals, but we dance because it’s our passion. If you love something, you pursue it, instead of doing nothing about it.
Why are y’all at the T-junction?
Michelle and Carhartt: Singapore lacks wide open spaces for dancers. Previously, there was Marina Square but they banned dancing because it was very disruptive. There was also Esplanade underground, but that’s gone too. SMU T-junction is probably the last place left.
We don’t come here all the time. We are usually at classes or renting a studio. But today, we are here because we have no money. It’s so expensive to live and work in Singapore … LET US LIVE.
How come the baggy clothes?
Michelle and Carhartt: Hahaha that’s a stereotype; not all dancers wear baggy clothes, even though it’s very comfortable. Our fashion depends on our genre and style. So waackers (a style characterised by rotating arm movements and striking poses) would want to wear more form fitting clothes so that you can see the line of their body, which accentuates their movement.
What are your thoughts about the Dancer V. SMU Student situation?
Michelle and Carhartt: I heard there were some inconsiderate dancers who just blasted their music. It’s likely why some students dislike the dancing community. But I think we are reasonable people and we can talk about it. Instead of creating Tiktoks to complain about us, please come talk to us instead. We share this place together and we would definitely lower our music if we knew it was disrupting your studies.
Though communal creatures by nature, some dancers still dance alone. The camera crew and I were piqued by this behaviour and wanted to find out more. We found Xavier by himself, busting out dance moves that were sicker than the pandemic.
Who are you?
Xavier: I am a year 3 student. I practise popping, which is a style that originated from the funk era in the 70s and 80s.
What are you practising for?
Xavier: There’s an event next month called ‘Forever Japan’. I’m entering the popping category. It’s more of a dance battle and less of a competition. But even if there’s no upcoming event, I’ll be here practising.
Are you going to be the next Joseph Schooling of dance?
Xavier: Probably not, it’s really difficult to win. Most of the participants are professional dancers and they’ve been dancing for way longer than I have. I’m going there to enjoy myself; winning is a bonus.
Do you intend to go pro as a dancer?
Xavier: I don’t think so, I prefer to keep it as a hobby and profession. It’s difficult to earn a livelihood with dance and I have other interests as well. So I would rather work a proper job and dance in my spare time.
What’s the best food in SMU?
Xavier: I don’t know if there’s a best food, but I’ve been eating Koufu a lot. I used to avoid Koufu, but there are new stalls and the food has improved. The new curry place near the IS lounge is pretty good as well. 10/10, it might be the best food in school?
So who are the SMU basement dancers? They are passionate individuals who come from all corners of Singapore to practise and relax. Most of them will never go pro, yet they have the courage to dance their hearts out.
Some of us will love them; some of us will hate them; some of us will treat them like modern installations of art — admired from a distance, but never to be approached. However, one thing is for certain, dancers will forever be a part of our basement.
So next time you see a dancer, treat them kindly. We are all humans under the same concrete ceiling after all.