Words: Helen Woltering
Photographs: Jack Thomson Photography
A strong woman does not allow society to define who she is and restrict what she’s capable of accomplishing.
It is us, emotionally strong women, who motivate the rest to push on and who emerge as voices of change. Emancipation allowed for us to be strong in so many ways: the tough business woman, the strong single mother, the adventurous twenty something. As long as we, and here comes the twist, embody strength through the way we look: slim, slender, toned; Physical female strength is often considered as something that belongs to men only. However, our bodies are not made to please a certain norm but for us to perform on the stage of life, for doing what we’re best at: living the dream.
Originally from Singapore, Adelene Stanley discovered her dream was dancing very early on and she pursued it ever since. After moving to London at the age of 16 to attend Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, she won several Outstanding Performance Awards and scholarships. Her muscular body is a symbol of her achievements.
What is it about dancing that empowers you?
To me dancing is a truly empowering feeling as I get to experience a state where I am in total control of the flesh. My mind, body and soul are connected. I find great satisfaction to use my body as a tool to communicate my thoughts, ideas and my feelings. The greatest thing is that become hypersensitive to my body and all the surroundings which enables me to be fully present and aware.
How does it empower other people?
Dance can be many things to many different people. To some (like myself), it is a profession and to others it can be a mere experiment. I believe that both would allow one to experience liberation and empowerment through the joy of movement.
How much do you exercise?
During the training period, it is usually 2-3 classes a week, which are around an hour and a half each. In a company setting, the training can increase to 4-5 hours of dance rehearsals per day. As I travel a lot, I always have a yoga mat and a roller handy so I can do Pilates and body conditioning whenever and wherever I want.
How did you perceive the transformation of your body through dancing over time?
Through dancing, my body got stronger and more agile. I became more aware and sensitive to each part of my body I’d say.
Would you say that your physical strength makes you feel mentally strong?
Yes, I think you can draw a connection here but I wouldn’t say that one completely affects the other. Plus there are other factors that would make you feel mentally strong such as emotions and experiences.
You also work as a model, how does the modeling industry perceive a female with a rather muscular body type?
There’s a growing trend to fit muscular bodies. However, when flipping through magazines and watching runway shows, it is still clear that female models on the runway are skinny and slender-figured compared to being muscular and well-built. It strongly depends on what you expose yourself to, though. Health and fitness magazines promote healthy diets and muscular toned bodies. They are not fixating on skinny mannequin-like figures and crash diets which is the opposite of health and fitness.
What is a strong woman to you?
A strong woman to me is someone who is confident, independent, who is determined, a goal-setter, someone who is aware of her strengths and weaknesses and accepts and embraces the flaws in herself. And most of all, a strong woman does not allow society to define who she is and restrict what she’s capable of accomplishing.
To freely allow your spirit to shine through in whatever you’re doing – that’s beauty.
How would you define beauty?
I think beauty can be so diverse, but recently I see it as the ability to radiate joy and happiness. People are attracted to happy people and therefore being happy is beautiful. To freely allow your spirit to shine through in whatever you’re doing – that’s beauty.
Dance is a lot about balance. How do you keep the balance in your everyday life?
I am surrounded by art and dance every minute of my day so balance is already a part of me. Having said that, I find balance by seeking out other things that make me happy, whether it’s religion, or surrounding myself with the people I love and at times not taking myself too seriously and just relax. I always tell myself to breathe, soak in the beauty around, enjoy life and enjoy people. Life is just too short to let anything pass you by.
When do you feel most alive?
When I dance. Whether it’s for thousands of paying audiences or for myself quietly in a studio exploring, reconnecting, rediscovering. For me, this is a constant journey. I discover new things about my body and myself every single day.