NUS social and ballroom dance club (NUSSNB)
I joined this particular dance club upon entry into the National University of Singapore (NUS) after National Service (NS) because of these brief events:
- my physical education (PE) teacher in ACJC conducted a couple dance class over a single PE lesson. He taught us the Rock N Roll. The music genre clicked with me and something inside me was telling me that I was sick of the whole stiff bodied regimental NCC thing after being in that CCA for 6 years. I wanted more opportunities to dance but of course the next two years were spent in more regimentation in NS keke. Could only pursue couple dancing when I entered NS.
- the determination to learn dance was reinforced when the movie Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez was released in 2004, when I was in JC2, which was also about the time our PE teacher conducted that Rock N Roll lesson. The movie was funny in that the characters were obviously awkward during their first ballroom dance classes but they eventually grew into elegant dancers. More importantly, the plot connected with me because the characters faced self doubt and wondered about the meaning of their lives having been pushed along by external influences without individual agency for the bulk of it. I was literally having the worst two years of my life in ACJC scoring below average for tests and exams, and I wasn’t performing in my CCAs either. Not good at all for the individual in a culture obsessed with success. On hindsight, it was symptomatic of a crisis of sorts, maybe identity crisis. I am after all the typical xi geena with no life right?
- I met the then-president of NUSSNB after my driving test in the waiting area, post-NS in 2006, just before entering NUS. This coincidence was a little too coincidental and it sealed the deal.
Update 2nd July 2019: my passion for ballroom dancing eventually led to a wedding first dance on my wedding day. Please see our wedding dance here.
Latin ballroom dance or Standard ballroom dance
The dance in my head was undoubtedly waltz, waltz, waltz, waltz, waltz and many many more waltz. Just like in the movie Shall We Dance. Of course they did the other dances like Quickstep but I don’t think the Quickstep was something I could identify with in Junior College. A bit the old ah. I mean I didn’t even know what that is. But not Waltz. Waltz is timeless. So I am inclined towards the Standard Ballroom dances which include the Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. The Latin ballroom dances include the Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Jive and Paso Doble.
It is important to talk about the club’s arrangement with the respective teachers they engage because it concerns quality of the lessons. For example, if one mentions the dance Cha Cha, we are likely to imagine a group of aunties and uncles dancing some dance that is as tacky as line dance at the Community Centre. But no. Cha Cha in the Latin Ballroom sense is anything but tacky, and is competed at Blackpool. I never attained that level of proficiency so I do not have any flattering videos keke. But do Youtube them up by yourself.
Therefore, teachers who can teach within their competencies to our desired outcome are important. Now that was where the primary instructors that taught my batch of beginners had half a problem. They were Latin competitors themselves, yet they wanted to monopolise teaching the Standard Ballroom too.
When I was a beginner, I didn’t know what the word “technique”, specific to the dance dictionary, meant. So I was having fun dancing and all. But after a few months or so I felt like something was amiss. I still wasn’t dancing the Standard Ballroom with the close contact hold. I was still dancing in a unstructured manner, not bound by strict rules which are to be expected, yet all the while listening to our primary instructors insisting on proper holding and weight change, as well as “technique”, for the Latin dances.
Politics and money
So I googled, and that is at time when Wikipedia was still not considered credible in Universities. Google itself was also recently offered $4 billions to be bought out by Yahoo. Anyway I sidetracked with these interesting nuggets of information keke.
I stumbled on a second website operated by NUSSNB. It was rudimentary compared to the primary site. So I thought it could be an extremely old website that is no longer in use. However, it wasn’t the case. The dates of the stated courses were relevant and updated. They weren’t some dates that had passed a long time ago. And guess what? The courses stated were of Standard Ballroom dance classes taught by Standard Ballroom instructors!
Yeah, so I happily turned up unannounced nor registered at the location at the designated time for the first class, as it wasn’t midway through the class when I discovered the notice. Class was extremely different. For once, I actually felt like Richard Gere was within reach.
The long and short of this phenomenon is that, the primary instructor wanted to monopolise, but the club felt it wasn’t correct as they aren’t proper Standard Ballroom instructors. So there was a compromise to allow only seniors and not juniors to join. The vice-president of that year told me a couple of years later when he was about to graduate that I had caused the club committee alot of headaches. This is because the class was legit under the club and they cannot deny my signing up, yet they couldn’t quite tell me the club’s arrangement. Furthermore, I had gone around and tell my batch mates about the Standard Ballroom class on the other side like a loudhailer blah blah blah blah blah. The rest is history and classes on the other side was opened up to beginners as a result keke. Ooops.
Happily dancing after?
So I thought I was ready to abandon the Latin side of things because I really only wanted to learn the Standard Ballroom dances. But no. The Standard dances got its own set of unique problems, that is absolutely non-existent in the Latin dances.
It was fun
And never tiring
To dance and study
And to live together
At an era
Between the boom box and the smartphone
We danced to music
Played through the laptop
Through the phones we did not
For they weren’t yet as smart as us
We sang, joked, played and laughed
Looking back, it was a dream
It was perfect
And now I am awake and weary
I am living the dream of the future’s!
Into the past I look
Not at what’s long passed
But to play the short tune over and over
That it may guide I for the journey ahead
Went for Latin ballroom competition with my partner and we danced the Cha Cha!
Even though we competed only in the pre-beginners category, it was one of the most special moments of my life!