DR DAPHNE HUANG-VARGAS
The medical doctor has brought the art form of flamenco dancing closer to Singaporeans
How and when did you discover your love for dance?
Dance was something I’ve always enjoyed but never pursued as studying medicine kept me busy throughout my younger years. After graduation, I took up ballroom dancing and started to explore other types of dance, including flamenco. In my pursuit, I attended a flamenco workshop at New Norcia, near Perth, about 13 years ago. There, I met a master of the dance — Antonio Vargas. I saw for myself what the dance was about and was completely blown away by the experience.
Antonio is now your husband. How did flamenco play a part in your love story?
I didn’t talk to him in Perth as he was the big master and I was just a student. Sparks only flew when we met again in Singapore the year after. The rest, as they say, is history. We then had our son and were trying actively to find a way for him to base himself here, which was challenging as there was no flamenco scene in this country then. He used to travel a lot to conduct workshops and it came to a point where he didn’t want to travel anymore. So we tried to form a base here by starting a dance company.
Tell us about the growth of flamenco dancing in Singapore.
Flamenco Sin Fronteras (FSF) was formed in 2009 as an informal group of people who love the art form. In November 2011, we formalised it as a non-profit arts group and have grown from five to 20 company members with more than 100 students. Each year, we produce the Singapore Flamenco Festival at various theatres and community spaces across the country. To give it a local twist, we have fused local elements into some of the productions. For example, 2017’s edition — May 12-14 at the Goodman Arts Centre — is about the five Chinese Elements and will incorporate Chinese music and dance aesthetics in flamenco dance theatre. We have also done several fringe festivals with the Esplanade and community outreach programmes in collaboration with the National Arts Council.
And you’ve used the art form to give back to the community?
FSF has worked with the Singapore Association of Mental Health since 2014. We conduct workshops at their social welfare complexes such as Pelangi Village, where we teach their residents. In the past, we collaborated to put together a number that was performed at our dance festivals. We also work with Child at Street 11, an organisation that aims to help disadvantaged young children to break out from the poverty cycle.
When do you trade your dancing shoes for the stethoscope?
My mornings usually start with visits to various nursing homes across Singapore that I have been working with for a few years now. I mainly deal with geriatric patients but there are patients in other age groups there.
And when not dancing or seeing patients?
I catch up with my son Simon, 12, and daughter, Lydia, nine, to do simple things like having lunch or watch a movie. I love dance too much and still do that in my free time but instead of flamenco,
I take up contemporary dance classes and even ballet.