I can’t profess to be cool enough to be a regular on the Popping dance scene, however I have been following Rachel Racheezels for a little while, and I’ve seen her go from dancing enthusiast to dance sensation with an ease and grace that has held my attention. The fact that she dances with her fiancé is another interesting twist to her story, but what I loved most about interviewing her was the very natural and gentle wisdom she had with respect to taking chances in life and the possibilities that are born from living creativity, both personally and professionally.
Rachel, when did you start dancing?
I first started dancing when I was 17 and decided to join my junior college dance team. At the time it was mostly just to be with my friends, but after I graduated I started attending different dance studios and dance classes. In 2008 I took my hobby to the next level and started taking part in performances and dance competitions.
When did you decide to follow this path as a career versus a hobby? Was there an ‘eureka’ moment or did you think about it for some time?
Over the years, dancing as a hobby slowly became a lifestyle. I even started to organize dance events, teach and travel to competitions where sometimes I performed and other times I judged. The increased commitment with this and its community gave me opportunities to network and provided some side income along the way. Despite this, I still juggled dancing with a full-time job for some time. Eventually in 2015 I became a ‘full-time’ dancer and at the same time more freelance opportunities came my way which enabled me to finally make the shift. I didn’t really sit down to plan, it sort of happened naturally to me. A kind of a chicken and egg situation whereby I’m not sure which came first, deciding to be a full-time freelancer or new opportunities? But I guess when you’re ready to embrace whatever comes along, things eventually fall into place.
Do you ever have tough days and what makes you get out of bed on those days?
Definitely! There are uncertainties, especially when we choose to take the path less travelled. Sometimes we beat ourselves up with doubts and questions that we cannot answer. On days like these, I take a break and have some alone time. Some days I turn to other non-dance related projects like design, picking up a new skill like calligraphy or studying music. It takes my mind off negativity. Often all I need is a breather, to step away from my current state. I also try to think back and recall the people or events that inspired me in the first place.
I personally love your style and have loved watching you ‘evolve’ as an artist. What is it that is so different about this genre of street dance?
Thank you! One thing I really like about Popping is the possibilities you can create with it, and like me and my journey, it goes through phases. From chancing upon this style of dance and believing its magic, to finding my feet as an artist, the journey has been eye-opening. There are some days where I’m creating scenarios and acting as if I’m a mime artist, and other days where I just want to be alone with my favourite companion music. The whole process allows me to explore and find my strengths and weaknesses as a person, as well as in my dance.
You and Marcus, you’re a happy couple and a successful dance duo. Do you think dancing with your partner has positively effected your creativity in projects and has it presented any challenges?
Dancing with my soul mate has positively impacted me in more ways then I ever imagined it would. He inspires me, and at the same time challenges me as he knows very well of my strengths and weaknesses, whether in dance or in my character. It has helped us grow to understand and trust each other more when we both work with each other, because we naturally now gravitate towards similar goals in life and dance! It’s healthy to have disagreements too, and each time time we do we find out new things about each other, including new ways to solve problems together. I would say it has been a blessed opportunity to have him alongside.
I suppose what I’d love to know is, how do you feel making the ‘jump’ to full-time dancer has given you more purpose in your career and life?
For sure! I didn’t know how liberating it would be to do what really inspired me until I actually did it! I feel you always learn something new about yourself when you are challenged or allow yourself to be thrown into a new environment. It has been a journey of self-discovery and self-improvement spending time and effort focusing on my craft and dancing has so many healing properties. It helps people grow, think and express themselves in new and different ways. To me, indulging myself in some form of art is necessary but having the time and opportunity to immerse in it is a blessing. It is no doubt meaningful and purposeful to be building on my dance, which is now a representation of me. When you’re focused on creating something, I think you naturally start to inspire people, and I guess this helps make a difference and impacts other budding artists. It also increases awareness of the arts in Singapore.
Can you give me some examples of the projects your working on now?
My dancing partner (and fiancé) won a competition back in May with Singapore Dance Delight and has just been to Japan for the finals. We were really excited to share our work with friends in Japan and had an awesome time. This month (September) we’ll be performing a site-specific production at Scape, which is the first time we’re creating an experiential dance piece. October, as part of “Got To Move”, we will be working with dancers and musicians to use dance as a way of connecting to more of the public. After our wedding we will most likely be taking some time off to travel and experience dance in new places too.
What can we expect to see from you guys over the next year?
We can never be too sure about these things but hopefully putting it out there will help! Ha! Collaborative projects are something we’re looking forward to, whether is it cross-disciplinary or simply like-minded people who are willing to experiment and make magic together!
Follow Rachel and Marcus on Facebook: Scrach Marc’s