News @ AsiaOne

Cool to be a fool

Dayen Zheng is able to have fun and make fun of herself. -TNP
Kwok Kar Peng

Mon, Jun 25, 2012
The New Paper

Dayen Zheng, the newest member of popular Australian children's musical troupe Hi-5, could hardly get any shut-eye the night before her audition for the group.

Said Zheng: "I didn't sleep the night before... When I met them, I told myself, be cool, don't make a fool out of yourself."

But Lauren Brant, one of the members, interjected:

"And the one thing she did was to make a fool out of herself.

"And that's why we all said we want her in the group because she was able to have fun and make fun of herself...

"She knows how to be silly and she does things without feeling embarrassed."

The 22-year-old Zheng, who was born in South Korea and moved to Australia with her family in 1996, replaced Fely Irvine in January when the latter left to explore other career options.

The rest of the members are Tim Maddren, Casey Burgess, Stevie Nicholson and Brant, who are all in their 20s.

Zheng told The New Paper in an interview on Tuesday that she didn't know she was auditioning for Hi-5 when she sent in a 30-second video clip of herself singing, dancing and talking about herself.

She only knew it was for a children's programme and found out only when she was asked to go to Sydney for the Hi-5 audition.

She may have been in the group for only six months, but she's felt love and acceptance from the other members from day one, she said.

Right vibe

The others added that they knew the moment they met Zheng that she was the one. They felt the right vibe from her and that they had the right connection.

The bubbly quintet were speaking to the local media to promote their ticketed show, Hi-5 Holiday, which will run here in September.

They also performed at a shopping mall here for about two weeks.

And yes, Hi-5 are still in touch with Irvine, who's half-Scottish and half-Filipino.

Burgess said: "Fely is doing great. She's been helping people in a lot of short films and wanting to get into acting.

"Hi-5 is our life, but we have other things in our lives like music, writing or acting that we want to pursue. It's just that hers came a little earlier."

Before Hi-5, Zheng lived in the Gold Coast for six years studying ballet. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dance with an advanced certificate in classical ballet, she did some commercials and played extras in dramas like Sea Patrol and Terra Nova.

She moved to Sydney to start her work in Hi-5 and said everything has been a whirlwind since.

She said the rest of the Hi-5 members helped her get settled in by answering her questions on what the job entails and even things like where to eat in Sydney.

"It's like nothing I've ever imagined... It's unreal to sit here and think that I've just finished my first Australian tour and my first Singapore showcase," she said.

Singapore was her first show outside Australia.

Coincidentally, her connection with Singapore began way before, when she had a small role as a dancer in the 2011 Australian documentary, Singapore 1942.

Brant said Zheng was very excited when she came to Singapore.

Added Nicholson: "She literally ran out of the airplane and through Changi Airport.

"It's been so special for us to have this beautiful energy that Dayen brings to the group. We see the way children respond to her on and off the stage and wow, what an asset for us to have in the group."

Hi-5 have been regular visitors to Singapore, performing at least once a year at shopping malls during the school holidays.

As such, they've had many special memories.

"Parents have brought their kids to our shows for the last three years, and we've seen them grow. We have a really tight bond with them," said Brant.

Added Nicholson: "Singapore and Hi-5 have a very strong bond. My first tour was to Singapore and Dayen's first international tour is to Singapore, and so it's like that glue that we have with Hi-5."

Burgess said Singaporeans "get" and appreciate what the group does. Unlike other countries, the parents here always sit with their children during their performances and are always involved, she said.

And of course, there's the local cuisine - their favourites being chilli and black pepper crab, sambal kangkong and cereal prawns.

But food like sea cucumber, stingray, chicken feet and white fungus bewilder them.

"We haven't tried avocado milkshake yet. Avocados come with bacon and eggs for me, not in a juice," joked Burgess.

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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