Hey there, I’m Kian Keong. I’d never expected myself to be so passionate and involved in ballroom dancing, coming from 15 years as a volleyball player. Interestingly, it’s now the most natural thing in the world for me!

The late Professor Winston Koh was the one who inspired me to take up the challenge of ballroom dancing. He was an avid ballroom dancer and knew my brother, Kian Yong, well. My brother was one of the founding members of Ballare, and in fact, taught Prof Koh ballroom dancing. He recognised me at a dancing competition (I was there as a spectator) and came up to chat. He challenged me to give dancing a shot… and here I am.

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It may come as a surprise that I almost left Ballare in my first year. I’d heard a lot of great things about Ballare, but there was nothing close to it when I joined the club. I took a short break of 3 months and then came back, and decided to make a change in the club by running for president.

I assembled a team and allocated roles even before I was elected, as I felt it was the right thing to do. I’m really proud that our team managed to transform the club to what it is today– a strong, active and passionate community of dancers.

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During my exchange in Shanghai, I spent more time dancing than in the classroom. I challenged myself to grow as a dancer and hone my skills during that time. I danced for months, practicing all alone in the studio. It was not an easy time for me, to be honest. There was no one around for me to lean on for support and advice– my family, friends and fellow dancers. But I don’t regret any of it.

My exchange experience was a gateway for some time and space to find and sort myself out. I remember I was actually sent back on my first day of training. My dance instructor told me that I had not trimmed my nails, my hair was in a mess, and that my energy level was negative. I learnt a simple and powerful lesson that day: Don’t take dance as just dance. Be focused and respect what you do. It’s why we dance, and perhaps, why we live.

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Looking back, I may have been a little too intrusive as the president of Ballare. Dance is a huge part of our lives, yet it’s not the only thing we do. I remember making it a point to give three members a call everyday, to follow up on their progress. This went on for months.

Now as a mentor to my juniors, I’m definitely more approachable. I give them more breathing space to try things out, to learn and grow from their mistakes. I like this role much better because it makes me more likeable!

My biggest role model is my brother, Kian Yong. He founded Ballare and gave it a great culture. He is soft-spoken, yet articulate. He does not force his decision onto others, but offers multiple perspectives and ideas for me and other members in Ballare. The best advice he has given me is that time is short. Don’t waste it.

“People may not thank you now for what you do, but that’s no reason to stop doing what you believe in.”
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I aspire to be one of the best ballroom dancers in the region. My personal goal is Blackpool in two years’ time. Blackpool’s where all ballroom dancers want to compete. It’s like the holy ground of ballroom dancing.

It was especially meaningful organising Ballare International Competition 2015 this year. It reminded me of that conversation with Prof Koh that opened me up to the world of ballroom dancing. Held in August 2015, this competition attracted hundreds of top ballroom dancers from all around the world for a weekend of ballroom dancing. I was elated to clinch second place in this competition! My brother emerged champion, and I’m really proud of him.

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Seeing double? That’s Kian Keong on the left, and Kian Yong, his older brother and mentor, on the right!

It was extremely humbling for me to be awarded the SMU Emerging Artist Award 2015. This was an award that I set my sights on winning since I started dancing, not to validate and glorify my accomplishments, but to commemorate a very special person who played a part in inspiring me to take up dancing as a passion – Professor Winston Koh. To have won the award made me reflect on how incredibly lucky I have been to have met inspiring and supportive people along the way who have contributed significantly to my personal growth as an artist, a leader and as a person.

Life-changing. That’s how I’ll describe my journey as a dancer, from that very first day with Prof Koh. I hope to pay it forward by inspiring more people to take up standard ballroom dancing as a lifelong passion. Many more years to come!

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Class, elegance, poise– three words that exemplify our ballroom community. As one of the most elegant art forms today, Ballroom is more than just a dance, it is a way of life. Waltz over to SMU Ballare’s Facebook page to find out more about us!

© 2018 Snapshots by SMU