Cheryl Wu is SEA’s newest sensation(pun-intended), at 19 she successfully launched the first ever Brazilian Zouk Festival in Singapore - Zouk Sensation 2019. She’s smart, driven, talented, and very hardworking - we sat down with Cheryl to learn more about her background.
Hi Cheryl, tell us about your background in dance and how you got started.
I’ve always been an active child. I did competitive swimming and tennis from age 5-8. Then I started Kids Salsa & Cha-Cha (laughs) when I was 8, and was fortunate enough to have been talent-spotted by a famous producer in Singapore called Dick Lee, and was cast in one of his musicals. After that, I started learning Salsa & Bachata seriously and performed at Salsa Asia Cruise in 2009 with my Salsa teacher Gupson when I was 10.
This event was also the first time Zouk Lambada was introduced to Asia, with Kadu & Larissa. When I was 12, I went to Australia for a little bit to train in both Zouk Lambada, and Lambada at Rio Rhythmics. Whenever amazing dance instructors came to Singapore, I also took private lessons from them. Growing up, I never stopped watching Brazilian Zouk demos online. After finishing my high school education, I decided I wanted to give this dance another try, and have been blessed with many opportunities to work with so many talented dancers and mentors like Alex & Mathilde, William & Paloma and DJ Kakah.
When did you decide on the idea of creating Zouk Sensation Singapore?
After William & Paloma taught 10 hours of workshops in Singapore in 2018, they told me to consider hosting a Zouk festival in Singapore. In the past 10 years, there has only been one zouk festival in Asia, and we could do something to change that.
Initially, I was skeptical. After all, I was 18, in university and I really did not plan to take this dancing dream to be as big as it is now. William & Paloma have been an integral in part of this whole journey.
What motivates you to push the scene forward?
It’s so easy to feel beaten and down in this industry. However, I’ve been blessed to have strong supporters by my side professionally, and an amazing team of students-turned-friends to help me along the way.
Nothing motivates me more than my community. It’s the little things, like when a student tells me I’ve done a good job, or how they love Brazilian Zouk because of what we did.
On a personal note, it’s just insanely awesome to be able to work with the best dancers in the world. I really can’t believe my luck!
Tell us about your dance school.
In 2016, I opened Cheryl Wu Dance Studio, and since then, we have refocused to exclusively teach Brazilian Zouk classes in Singapore. When I first started, we only had a handful of students no more than 10. Three years on, we have more than 100 students and have the biggest Zouk team in Asia at the moment.
On top of that, we have trained numerous Zouk dancers who have won champions and awards. I cannot be more proud of this. Recently, CWDS has expanded its teaching team to include 6 teachers.
What are your plans for 2020?
For my dance school, I am looking forward to continue expanding the Zouk scene in Singapore and regionally with my team, as well as push our current dancers to excel on the social dance floor. I hope to ride this momentum of Brazilian Zouk expanding in Asia.
For Zouk Sensation 2020, we are featuring Asia’s biggest lineup yet with William & Paloma, Kadu & Larissa, Carlos & Fernanda, Leo & Becky, Ry’el & Jessica, DJ Kakah, Marc Chang, Sloat Media and SBKZ Media. We are working hard to ensure every aspect of the festival - from workshops, to the music, to BZDC Jack & Jills, to the social dancing - will be extraordinary.
On a personal note, I will be entering my 3rd year in university. I hope to survive all this craziness whilst studying. (laughs)
When you’re not dancing or teaching Brazilian Zouk, what do you like to do on your spare time?
I really love to do nothing. It’s funny because I’m so used to multitasking so many things at the same time that when I actually have nothing to do, it’s bliss.
When I am not dancing or teaching, I am mostly preparing for classes, liaising with artistes for events, training my instructor team at CWDS or reviewing videos of students.
Occasionally, I study on campus with my friends, and it makes me feel like a normal human being again.
What I really love, is watching movies, traveling, and hanging out with my friends for a drink, having a really good meal (there’s just so much to eat in Singapore. Sambal stingray.. Char Kway Teow.. Nasi Lemak.. I love my chilli padi) and of course a solid Chinese-style hardcore massage.