Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Jasmine Lee

·9-min read
#Fitspo of the Week Jasmine Lee is a dance coach, choreographer and performer.
#Fitspo of the Week Jasmine Lee is a dance coach, choreographer and performer. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!

Name: Jasmine Lee (@ahleeshan)

Age: 33

Height: 1.60m

Weight: 55kg

Occupation: Dance coach, choreographer and performer

Status: Single

Food: I eat what I love to eat and usually only take one sweet drink a day and the rest of the time just a lot of water!

Exercise: I dance five to six days a week, and it can range from three to eight hours a day (on high intensity class schedule day). Even on weekends, sometimes my mind is in overdrive and I will start dancing at home to plan for my classes and when I dance, I really work up a sweat. On top of that, I do a short abs and toning workout once a week.

Q: Were you a sporty kid?

A: I was not very active in sports when I was younger, as I was more interested in arts and craft. I was even in the Trim & Fit (TAF) club in primary school. Then in secondary school, I enjoyed basketball and netball during school PE lessons but I was not committed to an activity. These were just more of leisure and fun with friends after school.

How did you get into dance?

I first got a foot into dance when my mum put me in the Chinese Dance club in primary school (just for me to have more activities and for her to have more free time). Subsequently in secondary school, I joined a Modern Dance club but was not actively involved.

Jasmine got into street dance while studying in polytechnic.
Jasmine got into street dance while studying in polytechnic. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

It was only when I went to polytechnic that street dance piqued my interest. During that phase, I was captivated by idols dancing in music videos and local superstar reality shows where dance was a huge star factor! Then I joined the dance ensemble in school, mainly specialising in hip hop.

When did dance become a career?

It was a timely phase of my life when my full-time contract in a corporate job ended and I went for an interview for another position in a marketing role. However, that fell through and O School (the dance company I work in now) called me up and offered me a full-time contract with them.

Prior to that I have been very consistent with them, assisting classes and even as a replacement instructor. I have also participated in their events regularly with a huge involvement in dance and also certain leadership roles.

It felt right as I was thinking since it has been my consistent passion and I kept it up even during my full-time stint, why not give it a try when I was still young and see how I feel and how far it can take me.

You ended up being with them for 7 years and counting.

Yes, I have. My role has evolved from a choreographer from a studio class to directing and creating my own pieces and works to hone my style, allowing me to gather and attract like-minded dancers who love my style to continue to grow together.

Over the years, I am also trusted with more extra commercial gigs for external events due to the increased exposure in my company. Personally, the growth in my role also goes beyond just the scope of work, as I am also able to see the community of dancers evolve and improve over time. That is a huge fulfilment for me too.

What do you like about performing?

It just feels out of this world, like an out-of-body experience when you’re on a performance setting. The kind of adrenaline you feel when the music is on just allows me to be at my most heightened state of happiness and freedom, amplifying a part of me. It is a kind of feeling where even the pain of any injuries seem to disappear in that moment.

How do you balance being both an instructor and also a performer?

I am not involved in events as a performer all year round, so I have the space and time to pace and plan for my daily instructing roles. However, during events it will be much more hectic and I will ensure that I utilise all the mini pockets of my free time (even on my bus journeys) to pre-plan everything (be it a class or practising for the performance).

I do enjoy doing both though, as they give me very different kinds of fulfilment:

  • Instructing = seeing students grow over time (external fulfilment)

  • Performing = showcasing myself, being in an outrightly expressive showcase mode practised to my best ability (individual fulfilment)

Jasmine likened performing dance routines to an out-of-body experience.
Jasmine likened performing dance routines to an out-of-body experience. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What are some highlights of your dance career so far?

One of the main highlights would be when I was invited to go overseas to teach. It was so meaningful, meeting new people from various cities and feeling like I’m tasked with such an important role to to be able to impart and share my personal craft overseas and absorbing their reactions, feeling so humbled by their love and support for me and my style.

On stage, a highlight would be the feeling of dancing alongside people I journey with, the feeling of adrenaline with no fear, knowing no matter what happens, these people are with me - to finish through till the end.

One last highlight would be me being able to impart my legacy and craft to potential young talents, as a mentor to a small crew, honing their skills and at the same time building my craft and learning from them as well. This keeps me going and enhances my journey with fulfilment beyond myself.

When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

In secondary school, as I was in TAF club, it was always openly announced after assembly for the TAF club students to stay back. It was so embarrassing because the whole school will see me and know that I was overweight and needed that extra time after school to do exercises. In addition, being in that club was just so ‘uncool’.

When did you feel the least confident about yourself?

I felt least confident about myself the first few years after I graduated from polytechnic. That was a point where I had been dancing so regularly but had to stop to secure a full-time job.

When I started my full-time job in the corporate world after graduation, I stopped dancing for a year, as it was too hectic and I felt obligated to have more social time with my colleagues. Due to the lack of exercise and too much food intake from work gatherings, I put on a lot of weight.

Strangely, during that phase I did not realise the weight gain as it was gradual. It was only when I attended a dance concert late that year and my polytechnic dance club instructor saw me, gestured and commented that I gained weight, then I realised.

That was the first thing said to me after not seeing me for a year and it impacted me a lot, so I went to the extremes to diet. I also made it a point to go back to dance regularly. My diet during lunch was simply a few healthier ingredients from the mixed rice stall without any sauce and carbs, and I drank ONLY hot green tea in my office excessively (for detox). If I had to dance, I only ate a banana for dinner.

Jasmine struggled with confidence issues after gaining weight while working a corporate job.
Jasmine struggled with confidence issues after gaining weight while working a corporate job. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

It was very unhealthy, not just physically but also mentally. At times when I ate a little more than that, I would feel so guilty and not eat at all for the rest of the day. It was also a major confidence drop as I struggled to get back to dance, after having lost the momentum. It was challenging to do well in class, compared to before.

I felt so terrible, always feeling like other dancers were judging me. But I kept going, as I was also very determined to lose weight and dance is the only sport I want and love to do, so I stuck to my diet and my dance routine for quite a while.

Over time, I lost so much weight and it wasn’t healthy. It then took a year for me to get back to a more regular diet, and being back in dance gave me more courage with this passion and friends around.

Are you satisfied with your body now?

Yes, I am satisfied and content with my body now. Maybe it’s the phase of my life now, I feel more confident and secure in my own body. I am also more aware of my intensive regular routine of dance which I am sure helps me maintain my body.

As I gradually also become more experienced in dance, I have started to see the beauty of dance quality shining through more, with a well-toned and fuller body size as compared to being too skinny (which was what I wanted to be last time). However, I would love to work more on my abs and my butt.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

Yes, there was this period I was super into doing abs workout and many people were like ‘WOW’ and mentioned how obvious they look. I guess that was positive and my hard work paid off! Other than that, I did have people commenting on one of my social media that I’m small-chested and have nothing to show, but to me I wasn’t very affected and just laughed it off, as it was just a random person I don’t even know.

I think at this phase I am secure enough and aware of my own body type and can’t change things that are natural anyway. Also, this did not come from someone who matters in my life.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

I wouldn’t change anything physically. But mentally, as I am someone who always go forth for the best in every situation, I tend to be very hectic mentally, always on the edge, uncomfortable with down time. Therefore I would hope to adjust and ease my mind more, to allow more relaxation and even reflection, loosen my own reigns a bit more, for me to have more room in my mental state to savour every moment and feel the enjoyment more, in work and dance.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Jasmine Lee. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Jasmine Lee. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
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