Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Adelene Stanley-Cheah

Adelene Stanley-Cheah is a freelance dancer, movement director, choreographer and coach. (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: Adelene Stanley-Cheah (@adelenestanleycheah)
Age: 23
Height: 1.73m
Weight: 60kg
Occupation: Freelance dancer/movement director/choreographer/coach
Status: Married
Diet: I don’t consume much meat in my diet, but when I do have meat, it is mostly white meats, like chicken and fish. I try to get my protein from beans, chickpeas, eggs, tofu and lentils. I take a sufficient amount of carbs (sometimes more than the average person because my body is active and burns more calories). I try to eat everything in moderation.
Training: I do my own stretches and conditioning every morning for about 30-45 minutes (just to get my body ready for the day). Depending on the day of the week, I’ll go for either a ballet or a contemporary dance class. I try to get in some weightlifting twice a week to strengthen my legs and back. I go on the bike twice a week for 20 minutes to get some cardio.

Q: How did you start dancing?

A: I played a lot of sports when I was younger, such as swimming (I used to be on the school team), badminton, basketball, softball and volleyball. My mum had put me in ballet class when I was three because I was a very active kid. As years passed, my passion towards this art form grew and by the time I was 12, I knew I wanted to do this as a career.

What is it about dancing that you love so much?

It gives me a sense of freedom. I love that dance gives me the ability to use my body in ways to communicate, create shapes and create ideas. And I like that it keeps me in tune with my body – you form a heightened awareness to the way your body moves.

Adelene Stanley-Cheah loves dancing because it gives her the ability to use the body to communicate, create shapes and create ideas. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

You were with a dance company for a few seasons – how did that go and why did you decide to leave?

I have been dancing professionally for six years. Some of those years were spent in London, some in Singapore. Being in a full-time dance company is great because you get to perform a lot, and you get into a routine or cycle of different seasons.

I’ve learnt so much from this routine and from the different artists that I work with. But for some time now, I found that I was always craving for something more than just performing on stage. I decided to start freelancing so I can be in charge of my own schedule and have the freedom to take on any projects I want.

What are your plans next?

Later this year, I’ll be heading to London to premiere in a West End show with dancers from The Royal Ballet and Rambert company in collaboration with Grammy Award winners, Soweto Gospel Choir. The show tours to Singapore in June, so I’m excited for friends and family here to watch it.

In the meantime, I am going to be teaching a whole lot more – conducting workshops and open classes for the public. I will also be creating some choreographic work in Singapore.

I’ll also be doing some movement research of my own, which will comprise of some studying and applying my research practically to the classes I teach.

Adelene Stanley-Cheah had danced professionally for six years, both in London and in Singapore. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Did you ever not feel confident about yourself?

Yes, when I was injured back in 2014. I had a bike accident, an almost career-ending accident where my knee was gashed open till the point you could see the bone. I was rushed to the hospital to get 19 stitches done.

My recovery process was difficult. I felt my body wasting away. I wasn’t confident in my body and my ability to recover well, because I wasn’t able to walk for two weeks and obviously couldn’t dance or exercise for a couple of months. This came at the worst possible time too, because my dance career was picking up and I had jobs to do which I had to turn down.

How did you overcome it and become more confident?

I had to have faith and believe that my body will bounce back. I had a tour in Russia to look forward to – which gave me about five months to recover fully and be on stage performing. That goal kept me going every day and to stay positive. Eventually I did manage to go on tour and I am thankful for this second chance to dance.

Are you contented with your body now?

Yes I am. In fact, I feel the fittest I’ve ever been. I started a bit of weightlifting from my husband – he’s the top national weightlifter, so who better to learn from. (Not that I have any intention of ever competing in that sport).

Surprisingly I find similarities between weightlifting and dancing: both involve the beauty and appreciation of movement. I do it to strengthen my core, legs and back in particular; and since dancing keeps me nimble, doing both gives me a good balance of strength and flexibility.

A knee injury from a bike accident in 2014 almost derailed Adelene Stanley-Cheah’s dancing career. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I actually used to have a very unhealthy outlook on my body and on food; it was a love-hate relationship (mostly hate if I’m honest). I was always comparing my body with the really skinny dancers and strived for being thin at the expense of my own health. I even suffered from an eating disorder when I was between 12 and 15 years old.

The journey to recovery was a long but constant progress. I’ve learnt the hard way that being skinny is not being healthy and cutting out certain food groups does more harm than good! I’ve also come to understand my body – that I have a bigger bone structure – and learn to love my body for its natural curves. And for self-confidence, I guess it helps that I have a loving husband who tell me I look beautiful every single day.

Do you ever get any comments about your body?

Sure I do, I get a mixture of both positive and negative. I’ve had people tell me they love how tall, tan and muscular my body is… and I’ve also had comments that I’m too tall or too muscular for a dancer.

Adelene Stanley-Cheah took up weightlifting to strengthen her core, leg and back muscles. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I think it’s funny how people have varied comments of the same thing. Honestly, I think I’m my own harshest critic – I’ve had days when I feel great about my body and others when I feel completely terrible. The mind has its way of picking at our insecurities of ourselves. The trick is to not let that bother you and not get too obsessed over your body. Being healthy is not just physical but mental too.

What do you think are some of the misconceptions about fitness that society has today?

That being skinny or having abs means you’re fit. Society today places so much emphasis on aesthetics, some of which are simply not functional.

Another would be that exercise is more important than nutrition. They should really go hand in hand.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Adelene Stanley-Cheah (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)