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Navinda Pachimsawat, who became the first Thai to win the Aggregate Cup at the 11th Asia Pacific Dance Competition, has just led her dancers to win Best Troupe and Choreography and first place at the Asia-Pacific Dance Competition under the Contemporary Troupe Open Age category. Now she is focusing on site-specific performances and the establishment of her own dance company to help the next generation to discover the beauty of contemporary dance.  

Your perspective on dance.  It really started to change after I went to university. I’ve always done technical dances like jazz and ballet but at university in Australia I started to do more conceptual things. It made me realise that dance can be used to change people’s perspective and make their lives better. That’s when I understood dance as an art form rather than a technical thing and began to appreciate its power to convey messages to the audience.

You’ve tried to make a difference in the Thai dance scene. I wanted to give dance a context, sending information through my work rather than just for the aesthetics and making beautiful movements. I had high expectations but I found I couldn’t do what I had set out to do. I think because the idea was very ambitious and at the same time I was scared of failing—so there was a period where I was going through ups and downs.

That was when you applied for the Dance Web Scholarship in Vienna. It was the biggest contemporary dance festival in the world. They only accept 40 people from 2,000 applicants and I was the youngest of the people accepted. It gave me courage because it made me think ‘actually, I can do this’. Before I got the scholarship, I wanted to stop dancing because I was pressuring myself too much and I felt lost, somehow. When I applied I didn’t write down what my forte was, I just wrote down what I was scared of and I think the honesty got through to them. It made me realise that if you are going to create work and present it, honesty is one of the most important elements.

Dance as a platform in Thailand. After the festival I did some travelling around Europe, meeting people and trying to decide what I want to do with dance and myself. People like me who study dance abroad, they don’t usually come back to Thailand because there’s no platform for it. But I was lucky because my mother owns a dance school. The way I saw it I could stay abroad developing myself or come home and spread the message of dance to Thai youngsters, showing them that dance can provide a viable occupation.

(Related: The Can-Do Generation: Meet Chawin Athakravisunthorn)

Tags: Generation T, Navinda Pachimsawat, Dancer