When it comes to looking for suitable advocates for dance, there are many qualified candidates who might fit the bill. Some boxes that need ticking include being highly versatile, deeply passionate, engaging, unique and uniquely adaptable and, perhaps above all, highly respected in the community by both peers and “outsiders”.
After having the privilege and honour to work with Penelope Shum, I believe I have found our most impressive candidate and front runner for the coveted (albeit completely made up) position of Dance Advocate Australia.
Introducing Penelope Shum.
Shum effortlessly ticks all the aforementioned boxes and then some. When she’s not passionately advocating for her craft, she continues to enjoy exploring the many pathways and opportunities in dance as a performer, choreographer, teacher and events coordinator.
“I’ve always been a keen student, a curious and versatile dancer and an independent thinker,” Shum shares. “When opportunities came up to try new styles and put myself in the mix with difference cultures, I’ve jumped in mostly head first, and so far, so great! When the path ahead wasn’t obvious or opportunity hadn’t yet presented itself, I’ve been fairly content to cut my own path and create my own projects. It’s tiring, but it’s the best way to keep yourself accountable to what’s going on!”
Completing her B.A. Dance studies at the prestigious West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Shum began honing her skills soon after graduation, initially with contemporary dance company Bare Bones Dance Collective and later 3_Deep Dance Collective, Fresh Fools crew and Clubhouse L.A. As a well-travelled and worldly dancer, Shum has continued to push outward both interstate and overseas within Europe, the UK, Asia and America to professionally develop, teach and perform with some of the best in the business.
With over 12 years of professional experience within the Australian and international entertainment industry, Shum has worked with artists and companies including Sean Paul, Nelly, Mya, Deni Hines, DVBBS, Andre Fuentes, Yanis Marshall, Garry Stewart and Australian Dance Theatre, Philippine Allstars, Sony, UNICEF, the KFC T20 Big Bash League, AFL, the Boys & Girls Club of America, Tiff Manuell and the Mercedes Benz Adelaide Fashion Festival, Vogue Australia and Benefit Cosmetics.
In addition to her ongoing performance work, Shum has over 10 years of dance teaching experience, as well as expertise as a judge and adjudicator to a variety of dance competitions, and, most recently, Shum added a Certificate IV in Pilates to her skills base.
A self-proclaimed “dance student for life”, Shum has built for herself strong foundations in street dance amongst other dance genres and proudly counts among her own expert teachers Tyrone Proctor, Viktor Manuel, Kumari Suraj (waacking), Archie Ninja, Dashaun Wesley (vogueing); Suga Pop, Mr Wiggles, Poppin’ Pete (popping), Anthony Thomas, Tony GoGo and the GoGo Brothers (locking); Buddha Stretch, Henry Link, Brooklyn Terry (hip hop); Bboys Ken Swift, Storm, Poe One (breaking); and Marjory Smarth, Brian Green, Ejoe Wilson, Ray Basa (house).
Inspired to share similar experiences, Shum has been instrumental in creating unique, quality dance experiences and numerous learning opportunities for others at every level of the dance industry, through her earlier dance companies, freelance arts educator roles and now as Founder and Director of The Soul Council. Continuing her role as a community leader, Shum has introduced and established several now hugely popular dance styles to Adelaide, including lyrical, heels, waacking/whacking and house.
“So many of the world problems are borne out of fear of the unknown, and it is no different for our dance community,” Shum says. “For those scared to admit what they don’t know, I’d like to continue to provide them supportive spaces to peel back the stubbornness, relax and remember what it is to be a student. Maybe it’s altruism that drives me in that regard, or maybe it’s selfishness, but honestly I believe the only way to stay sharp is to sharpen those around you.”
Described recently by internationally renowned hip hop dance icon Bboy PoeOne, Shum is “a confident, passionate, hungry and dignified dancer and teacher determined to realise her goals… Penelope applies what she learns, and she shares it. She is a researcher and a dance historian who is ‘on-point’ and who sacrifices a lot not just for herself but for others. Penelope is a very valuable asset to the dance scene, not just for her knowledge and skills but also because she is supportive. Penelope brings an energy that inspires others to believe that they, too, can reach their goals.”
If none of that has garnered a vote for Shum, then perhaps this will:
“I have been, and I plan to continue to be a positive transformative energy in my dance community, on every level,” Shum shares. “I’m not afraid to fight for what’s right or of a bit of discomfort if it’s bettering us in the long run. I’ve never been one to suffer fools lightly, but I also accept that we all learn at different rates. The longer you stay in the game, for those of us who can and who do, the more sure you become sure of your own voice. Self-assuredness is great, but on the flip side, many ‘established’ people forget their voice ought to be used for asking questions every so often, rather than shouting out answers. I’d like to think my own practice is a good example of a healthy balance between speaking and listening and, very importantly, doing.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Penelope Shum, Dance Advocate for us all!
Follow Penelope Shum on Instagram: @penelopeshum.
By Jessie Krieg of Dance Informa.