Saturday, December 31, 2011


Another year is just about done, and we’re amazed at how full it was! After our inaugural year, we had some great leaps in 2010 - but 2011 was by far the biggest year yet for Studio 23, and to finish it up we’re having a look back at the past 12 months.


We had a nice and easy start to year 3. Our Crazy Monkey Defense and Flamenco programs were featured in newspaper articles, but mostly we spent January laying the groundwork for the following months.

By the time February rolled around, Albert and Serina were already in Sydney, Australia, taking some training courses.
Albert’s February was a slice of BJJ heaven: at the start of the month he trained with Nicolas Gregoriades (Roger Gracie’s first Black Belt) in Sydney, and at the end of the month he got to train with the man himself, Roger Gracie when he put on a seminar at Evolve MMA in Singapore!

Albert with Professor Nicolas Gregoriades in Sydney, Australia. 

Albert with Professor Roger Gracie at Evolve MMA, Singapore.

March was a taste of things to come, as things were slowly but surely piling on. We began Season 2 of our Core Strength Bootcamp with 15 participants, and we were really excited to see how this was going to go! Studio 23 was featured twice more, in the Borneo Post and (thanks to Tabitha) in Just Dance magazine, in an article about Kuching dance culture. Finally, we played host to a special guest as BJJ Brown Belt Christian Graugart stopped by as part of his world tour!

We introduced Belly Dance Tribal Fusion for the first time, and opened our first new BJJ class on Friday evenings.  The end of April featured our Martial Arts Open Week, where anyone could walk in and join any of our Jiu-Jitsu or Crazy Monkey classes for free.

April’s Martial Arts Open Week led straight into our May martial arts promo, in which we offered big discounts to anyone joining the BJJ or CMD programs in May. The promotion received a lot of great feedback and results, and we’ll probably be bringing it back soon! May was also a month of milestones for Studio 23:
1. Albert was promoted to Purple Belt in BJJ during training with Professor Adam Kayoom in Thailand.
2. Ivan was promoted to Blue Belt, officially ending the saga of South East Asia’s most notorious sandbagger.
3. The fourth World Belly Dance Day was held in Kuala Lumpur, and Serina performed a new choreography. That’s not new, but this was the first time that a group of students travelled with her for a performance and workshops!
4. More CMD classes were added to the schedule. These classes were focused on fundamental techniques that were just as useful to absolute beginners and seasoned veterans.

Serina and Studio 23 dancers at the 2011 World Belly Dance Day performance in KL.

Promoted to Purple Belt: Albert with Professor Adam Kayoom in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Studio 23 / ATT Borneo Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team.

In June, the Studio 23 Jiu-Jitsu team flew over to Manila for the 2011 Pan Asian BJJ International and came back with 7 medals! Not only was it a fantastic result for us, it was also the biggest team we have brought to a competition, at a modest 5! 

The BJJ team with Professor Adam at the 2011 Pan Asians, in Manila, Philippines. 5 competitors, 7 medals.

July saw the first audition for Dance Me A Story. For round 1, we had an incredible turnout of more than 100 dancers in Belly Dance, Jazz, Flamenco and Tango! It was also our first round of casting, and for this our production team flew in from KL. From July onwards, they would be flying over at least once a month! 

Our first cast meeting where producer, Serina, and production manager, Christina,
reveal the general storyboard for Dance Me A Story.

Round 2 of auditions for Dance Me A Story kicked off our August, and intensive rehearsals started on the 3rd

The rehearsals were not all just about dance! The Flamenco dancers also had to record their footwork to be used as background music. And just as they thought that it's a wrap, Albert flushes the toilet...

Also, Albert and Reuben flew over to KL for the annual CMD meet-and-greet at CMD Malaysia's headquarters.

Participants at the 2011 CMD Seminar in KL.

For Dance Me A Story, our focus now shifted from dance to drama, and our acting lessons began in earnest! Our production team worked with us, and special thanks go out to our drama coaches: Alison Nicholas and Sarah Lasung. 

Prince Shakil and his guard, Zabran,
 finding it a challenge to take themselves seriously in the beginning.

Our first full-cast rehearsals began in September, and the first round of photoshoots for the event took place as well!

Behind the scenes at the main cast photoshoot for "Stronger". 

In October, the Dance Me A Story performers had their first full-dress rehearsals. It was a great chance for our performers – some of whom having never even been part of a play in school – to get a picture of how everything would look when everyone was all made up. 

Full-dress rehearsals are always an exciting time as everyone gets to see what everyone else is going to wear!

This month also saw the fourth Thailand BJJ Open, and even though most of the BJJ team was unable to attend, Albert made the trip out to compete and came home with a couple of medals and a lot of experience! 

Albert won a silver medal in his No-Gi division at the 2011 Thailand Open.
It's the best result he's earned so far in No-Gi, and next year he'll be planning on doing better!
Finally, San Fransisco-based Sandra came back to KL for some more Belly Dance workshops and Serina took the chance to sneak away from rehearsals to go and learn from one of her favorite Belly Dance instructors! 

Serina at Sandra's workshop in KL. The workshop participants lining up for a good shot of Sandra's demo.


It goes without saying that in November our focus was completely on Dance Me A Story. With over 100 performers in both dancing and non-dancing roles, and an audience of about 1400 people, it was a massive effort and by far our most ambitious project. Pre-production work took 2 years, and if you were wondering why we haven’t made a blog post about it, it’s because we’re still doing the post-production work! From post-mortems to editing footage, we’ve still got our hands full with the show two months after it finished. We’ll have some more about it up soon, not to worry! 

The event hall for Dance Me A Story. It looks even bigger when it's filled up.

Dance Me A Story, Full Cast. Fortunately the stage held our weight and the show could proceed.

Warming up before the show. Pirates and princesses, zombies and street gangs united.

Last-minute full-dress rehearsal. Even zombies get nervous too!

The end of November saw Serina travel to KL for another Belly Dance workshop put on by Hungarian performer Mercedes Nieto, where she learnt even more ways to shimmy!

Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy!

The last month of 2011 began with our annual Belly Dance Hafla. Like our 2010 Hafla, this year’s party featured not only Belly Dance, but also Jazz and Flamenco performances as dancers from all our programs got together for a ladies’ only dance-off! It was the most informal event we've organized, and it was really fun being able to just relax, let our hair down and dance.

The Belly Dance and Modern Jazz Level 1 students blew everyone away with their confidence and poise!  And a trio of Belly Dance Level 2 dancers caught Serina completely off-guard when they had a surprise dance for her.  Instead of taking a break after Dance Me A Story, they met up and trained in secret!  Thank you so much :)

A full routine learnt in less than 3 weeks; not easy to pull off at all!

The Studio 23 dance troupe was also in action a couple of times, first at the Unimas Christmas show, “Christmas Is Coming To You”, and again during the Christmas Eve show at the Spring. 
At the 2011 Unimas Christmas charity production, "Christmas Is Coming To You".
It is now the last day of 2011.  As we post this, we are in London, England, where we arrived for a “holiday” of sorts 2 weeks ago. No later than 18 hours after we landed in the country, we were both training – Serina at Pineapple Dance Studios, and Albert at Roger Gracie Academy!

A jet-lagged but nonetheless gung ho Serina attended her first Commercial Jazz class at Pineapple Dance Studios– only to realize halfway through that she was in a Zumba class :p ...fortunately the Pineapple store was on hand to help out with some retail therapy after!

Just reading that over, we can’t believe that 2011 was such a packed year for us. As we reflect back on this year and get ready for the next one, we are profoundly grateful for everything that has happened to and for us over these 12 months. We had so many great experiences and learned an incredible amount that will surely help us in 2012 – year 4 for Studio 23!

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