Hongkongers in grip of Latin dance craze

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2006, 12:00am

Hongkongers are flocking to the ballroom in record numbers to sway to the rhythms of Latin dance, with the number of schools offering classes in the style growing rapidly since 2000, according to Charles Wu Man-sang, owner of Charles Wu Dancing School.

'In the last five years there has been a more diverse group of people taking up Latin dance. Before, it was mainly the preserve of professional dancers trying it out in the studio; now a lot of people are taking lessons to socialise and as a way to keep fit,' he said.

'It has become so popular that people are now performing Latin dance regularly at nightclubs and annual balls.'

Asianeeds DanceSport Studio director Daniel Yan Yiu-kee said an influx of dance teachers from the mainland had helped put the sport back in the public realm.

'On the mainland you have very intensive schools that specialise only in dance,' Mr Yan said. 'Since the handover a lot of graduates from these schools, and also other expatriates, have come to Hong Kong and begun teaching Latin dance in a freelance capacity, often holding their lessons in a more social setting such as restaurants, ballrooms or nightclubs, which appeals to a lot of people.'

DanceSport, which encompasses standard ballroom and Latin dances, has been heavily promoted worldwide since its recognition as a sport by the International Olympic Committee in 1997, he said.

Instructor Debbie Yu Wai-kuen of Perfect Dancing Academy said she had seen a 30 per cent increase in demand since Mimi Monica Wong's multimillion-dollar lawsuit began in June.

'After reading news reports about that HSBC woman spending millions of dollars for lessons, there has been a lot of interest from people wanting to see what it is all about,' Ms Yu said.

Mr Yan said Latin dance lessons typically cost between HK$300 and HK$700 per hour, though splashing out several million dollars to secure the services of a champion is not unheard of.