For as long as she can remember, Ms Vienna Fiorella Anong, 19, has always relished the freedom she found in movement.
Reflecting on her childhood, she recalls being a perpetually active child who “could not stop moving”, which led her to join a dance class.
Later, when Ms Anong joined her secondary school’s contemporary dance programme, she discovered an avenue for creative expression that resonated deeply with her.
“I fell in love with the different creative ways that I could express myself and tell stories through the art form,” she says. “When I’m dancing, I say all the things words fail to express using facial expressions and movements.
“Dance is a universal language that brings everyone together even if we have nothing else in common or no other way to communicate.”
Despite her deep connection with dance, Ms Anong’s journey as a dancer was not always smooth sailing. As her workload intensified at junior college, she faced a growing uncertainty about the role of dance in her future.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life,” she admits. “I also did not know what I was dancing for and doubted my abilities.”
Her perspective shifted when she met Jace Kang, a prominent local dancer who invited her to join team Ikigai for the 2022 Super 24 dance competition in Singapore.
That experience became a defining moment in Ms Anong’s life. To prepare for the competition, she took a break from social media to focus entirely on her dancing and studies, realigning her priorities and finding a balance between her two passions.
The competition was more than just a performance; it was a journey of self-discovery and growth.
“It was a very hectic point in my life as I was sitting for my A levels that year,” she recalls.
“I would wake up at 7am for school, be there until 5pm, then have dance rehearsals from 8pm to midnight. Whatever spare time I had, I would be studying or reviewing my dance videos.”
This experience paved the way for Ms Anong to apply for the Performing & Visual Arts Scholarship at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where she is now a first-year student majoring in data science and economics.
A spokesperson from NUS’ Office of Admissions says: “NUS Performing & Visual Arts scholars are uniquely well-rounded individuals who contribute actively to the performing and/or visual arts scene at the university.”
Much like how dance has afforded her the freedom of expression, the bond-free scholarship is providing Ms Anong with the space she needs to explore who she is and what she hopes to achieve in the future.
She is free to chart her own path after graduation, with the option to further pursue her passion for dance.
As part of the scholarship, Ms Anong participates in at least two performances or showings each year, ensuring a continued commitment to the art of dance alongside her studies.
The scholarship also comes with a mentorship programme where students identify and develop their area of interest, and mentors will help to find or create some of these opportunities for them.
“The learning is usually more self-reflective, both in terms of exploring different areas to expand the scope of experiences while developing more in-depth knowledge and technical skills in the art form,” says the NUS spokesperson.
Ms. Anong will have the opportunity to expand her dance skills in various ways, including solo performances, leading roles in group dances, and choreography. She will also be able to experiment with cross-genre and multidisciplinary performances, broadening her artistic repertoire.
Another bonus: The scholarship comes with a guaranteed overseas attachment. Ms Anong has her eye on universities in Britain so that she can backpack and gain more life experiences.
For now, she is embracing the present while keeping her options open for the future. She enjoys her data science modules and dreams of leveraging her skills in the sustainability sector, driven by her passion for the environment.
Simultaneously, Ms Anong will continue to refine her dance and choreography skills to become a more well-rounded performer.
“To me, the scholarship is what you want to make out of it. The most important thing is to be your authentic self and to have drive.
“So long as you have that, you can use it to steer yourself to a good place,” she says.