Tony Yap’s traces the beginnings of his successful career as an internationally recognised dancer and artistic director to his unorthodox childhood, growing up in a temple in a Malaysian fishing village.
As a young adult after moving to Melbourne, Tony worked as a graphic design, whilst taking dance workshops in the evening.
‘I just joined it as an activity after work and suddenly I realised there's something more to this language, but I didn't think much about it, other than as a hobby, until the late 80s when I did another workshop. It was an Italian physical theatre company, and they asked me to join the company.’
Despite his interest and obvious talent, Tony was reluctant to leave the certainty of his graphic design career for dance, instead rehearsing at night and taking annual leave when the company toured.
‘We did quite a lot of performances at that time, very big Greek tragedy type shows, and we had a lot of exposure and we travelled around the world.’
When that company disbanded, Tony contemplated giving up dance until his psycho-physical performance, ‘The Decay of the Angel’ about the death of his father earned him a Green Room Award for Best Male Dancer.
‘It changed my whole perspective of what my relationship to dance was,’ Tony says. ‘I kind of realised that I did not need to follow some form; I can just find my own idiosyncrasies.’
Tony has now carved out a niche for his style of dance that incorporates the shamanistic trance practises he grew up with, often sparking strong emotional responses from his audiences.
‘Dancing trance is a sense of emptiness. It's not so much humility, it is a recognition of the limits of oneself. And once you can find this sense of emptiness, then it can be filled with something.’