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Dancing: My Path to Well-Being and Self-Actualisation

25 Nov 2022

Dancing is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health and well-being, and it is also an activity that can be done by anyone, anywhere. For Jennifer Lai Fung Yen, dancing helps her to relieve stress and anxiety, which is especially important as she learns to cope with depression. As a lifelong movement enthusiast, Jennifer has dabbled in various sports, outdoor activities, and martial arts during her school and university days.


On 3 October 2022, the IMU Centre for Bioethics and Humanities had the privilege of inviting Jennifer to speak in a webinar titled Dancing: My Path to Well-Being and Self Actualization.

The webinar started with Jennifer detailing her struggles as she tried to fit into the social circle and find happiness. Over time, the accumulation of unmet emotional needs and traumas led her to depression and anxiety. Despite her challenges, Jennifer persevered through school and completed a degree in creative multimedia.

Upon graduation, she worked in the video game industry as a 3D artist for a few months before her true calling of dance hit her again.


To realise her dream, Jennifer explored different dance classes before she finally decided to learn from a renowned Malaysian choreographer/dancer named Mew Chang Tsing.


It was then that she learned the basics of contemporary dance, improvisation, and performance. Soon after, she found herself teaching and performing in various venues, creating her solos and group dances.

Teaching dance allowed her to share the message of love, inculcate values, and advocate conscious living. She enjoyed the interaction with children and the movement it brought her as it gave her so much joy and fulfilment. In that process, Jennifer noticed that she became so much fitter and healthier than before.

As she put it, “I have never felt better in life…I felt like I was touching lives.”

However, the journey of dance and teaching is not easy. After a fulfilling but exhausting 3 years of teaching full-time in an international school, she resigned to go freelance, as well as to go deeper into healing some of her dysfunctions and nursing an old injury. Even though she managed to find part-time dancing jobs, she found that teaching and performing in dances that she didn’t enjoy doing led her to experience burnout. She also experienced physical injuries and struggled to keep afloat as her income declined.


After some time, she decided to take a break from dance, and take on a new job as a gymnastics coach. However, this took a toll on her body, and as she progressed up the career path in the company, it started taking a heavy toll onto her mental health as well. Things took a turn for the worse when she started developing strong suicidal thoughts.


It was at that point that she realised that she needed help to manage her physical pain and achieve spiritual and emotional healing. Jennifer attended a yoga and meditation retreat where she recognised the need to cultivate acceptance and be present for herself, and decided to pursue yoga instead. There continues her journey toward healing her body, mind, and soul. Her journey has taken her to various healing arts and teaching modalities to heal her physical and emotional pain.


However, her love for dance never died. She is now ready to return to dance, combining her knowledge and experience in self-discovery and healing that feels more complete and aligned with her whole self, she now develops new dance programmes that teach techniques, and creativity and introspective programs that guide others through their own journeys as well!


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Written by Carol Chin, Lecturer, Centre for Bioethics and Humanities.

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