The next waltz is round the old market hall

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 March, 2004, 12:00am

It's a throwback to old Hong Kong. Women and men turned out in their finery, twirling gracefully across the floor of an old colonial building.

But this is not some Victorian-style tea party on the Peak, it's a Monday afternoon in the recently renovated Western Market building in Sheung Wan, and the dancers are not wealthy Europeans but locals from all walks of life.

Ballroom dancing is back, and, according to those in the know, it is growing in popularity.

Olivia Mak Oi-fai is a regular at the Grand Stage, the dance club and restaurant that now inhabits the Western Market's top floor. It has two dance sessions a day and is open to everyone.

'I tried it out and I've been doing it ever since,' says Ms Mak.

'I used to play golf and go swimming, but I enjoy dancing because you can dress up, put on some nice shoes, and while you're still getting exercise, it keeps you feeling young and happy.'

The therapeutic qualities of dance received further recognition with the formation of the Hong Kong Wheelchair Dance-sport Association in September.

'It's a fairly new sport,' says association secretary-general Joseph Pang Ping-kwan. 'It is quite different from other wheelchair sports, but it is a very good way to keep healthy, especially for disabled people.'

The association will be holding its first major event on March 14. The 2004 Asian Wheelchair Dance Sport Championships will be held as a warm-up event to the Chinese Super Star Dance Charity Ball at the Convention Centre that evening.

Wheelchair dancing is generally done between a chair-bound and an able-bodied person. It has been around for more than two decades, although it has only just started in Hong Kong.

About 30 people are taking part in the regular training sessions offered by the association in Pok Fu Lam.

'It is a close form of co-operation between two people. Many do not get the opportunity to dress up too often and this is a way for them to build confidence as well as get some exercise,' says Mr Pang.

Winnie Cheung Yung-yue, owner of Dancezing, a studio in Causeway Bay, says she has noticed an increase in ballroom dancing.

'We have people here aged from six to 64.'