Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012

A Passion for Dance


by James Gough

Ipoh’s first international dancesport competition, the 1st Ipoh Dancesport Championship 2012 was an astounding success. Judging by the 200 participants who came from all over the country and from China, Thailand, Hong Kong Singapore; the championship, organised by MY Dancesport Studio together with the Perak Society of Performing Arts in conjunction with Visit Perak Year 2012 was not only well attended but the organization was impeccable. The event, endorsed by the World Dance and Dance Sport Council (WDC), Asian Dance Council (ADC) and Malaysian Dancer’s Association (MDA) and held at the Grand Ballroom at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel, saw participants gracefully prance and twirl and dance stepped to the Waltz, Tango, Vienesse Waltz, Cha Cha and that dance of love the Rhumba.

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Those familiar with Dancesport Competitions (Dancesport is the new name for Ballroom Dancing) with 200 and over participants will know that competitions can start from as early as 8am and last throughout the day till 12.30am the next day. This was not so for Ipoh’s first Dancesport event as participants and officials gave the organisers top marks for punctuality of starting events on schedule. The Ipoh Championship started at 10am.

Chief Adjudicator for the event, William Lor, praised My Dancesport Principal Yeap Yen Chin for managing the timing schedule very well. Lor added that the judges too considered the first time competition to be “run very well”.

Winners of the Latin Amateur event Alfred Choo and Cecelia Yong, both students from Kuala Lumpur had similar praise for the organiser’s time management saying that ‘for a change the competition ended before midnight”.

Encouraging Support

Another point of encouragement noted from the participants and officials was their support for the inaugural event, the 1st International Dancesport Championship, the emphasis being on the term “International”.

Winners, Alfred Choo and Cecelia Yong who only participate in international competitions said the organisers were “pioneers and they were here to support them”.  Incidentally, Choo and Yong though still students have contemplated making dancing their career.

Amateur Open Winners, Kitty Chiu amd Wang Fei from Hong Kong and China respectively were here because they knew the organisers and “wanted to support the organisers in their first championship event”.

My Dance Studio students William Yap, 20, and Foo Wai Sum, 16, who won in the Amateur Rising Star category, also had positive comments about the event with Foo adding that “the event was tiring and the air con cold but I enjoyed participating”.

My Dancesport Studio/How it began

They say it takes one person to make a change. And this is true of Michael Yeap, the founder of My Dancesport Studio, located in Ipoh Garden East which started almost 20 years ago. Yeap is an Ipoh resident who returned from KL just to promote dancing, Ballroom and Latin and provide ‘wannabe’ dancers the confidence to take to the dance floor.

Initially teaching dance at the Ipoh Swimming Club and Perak Hokkien Association, he opened his premises at Ipoh Garden East due to an increasing interest in his dancing classes.

Yeap grew up around ballroom dancing. His father worked as an accountant with a British company and had built a six room bungalow in Pasir Puteh with a large hall where his English friends and colleagues would come over for dance parties. While young he would sit and watch and eventually take to the floor.

His school holidays during his teen years were spent preparing for the weekend when he and his like-minded friends would plan a Saturday night dance taking turns at each other’s house each weekend.

The boys would chip in some money for orange squash and sandwiches and also to pay the driver of a rich-man’s son to pick up their dance partners. Yeap was an ACS student so their partners, by natural affinity, were from Methodist Girls School (MGS).

Yeap’s big break came in 1999 when the filming of Anna and The King took place in Ipoh. He was asked by 20th Century Fox to train actor Chow Yuen Fatt and actress Jodie Foster for a banquet scene which included doing the Viennese Waltz.

The job required Yeap to be on standby 24 hours should either of the actors have the inclination to dance at any time of the day. Yeap was the partner for Jodie Foster. However for Chow Yuen Fatt he had to train and coach his daughter Yen Chin who was then 16 years old and only fluent in Latin dance. Between the two of them they partnered over 80 children and 20 adults for dance lessons for the movie. Needless to say at the end of the contract My Dance Studio was inundated by newcomers.

In 2001, Yeap had a stroke and retired. Thereafter Yen Chin and her brother Derek took on the role of teaching at My Dance Studio. Currently the Studio is run by Yen Chin as Principal and two instructors one being Derek and another Yong Chun Wai. The studio also conducts examinations besides coaching.

Yen Chin whose passion is Latin Dance, has travelled overseas for training and competes regularly at the Blackpool Dance Festival in UK and to update herself with new techniques which she imparts to her students. Yen Chin turned professional six years ago and is currently one of only three Latin Dance professionals in the country.

Organising an International Championship

Michael Yeap had long ago wanted to organise an international championship but “there wasn’t a suitable venue in Ipoh.” According to him, a suitable ballroom must not have any columns in the way which is now available at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel and is the reason why the championship was held this year. Since a venue is available Yeap intends to make the championship an annual event.

The championship this year also introduced new categories of competition such as  the Solo Open event for under 8, 12 and 16, as well as the Ladies Event where a pair of ladies dance as a couple with one taking the male lead.

According to Yen Chin, the purpose of introducing these new categories of events is to promote dancing to a wider market and to encourage more people to take up the sport and possibly make a career out of it.

For the near future Michael Yeap is contemplating having a state-wide competition for his students from Teluk Intan, Taiping and Kuala Kangsar.

It is good to note what one man’s passion for dance can do for the local economy and possibly would warrant to be included in the 2013 Tourism Calendar of Events.