Everybody: step up
Kenji Po Kwong-wood, 35, dance instructor
Young Post: How did you become a Latin dance instructor?
Po: I joined a Latin dance class at Creation Dancing Academy when I was in Form Three.
I fell in love with the passionate music and energetic dance steps. After completing my Form Seven studies, I joined the academy as a Latin dance instructor.
YP: Is Latin dance difficult to learn?
Po: No. Anyone can grasp the basic steps given proper guidance and sufficient practice. Beginners have to learn how to move their legs. Next they learn to co-ordinate their hips and waist.
The basic steps are not difficult to learn, it takes a lot of talent and practice to master Latin dance. Latin dancers also need a strong sense of rhythm.
YP: What do you like about Latin dance?
Po: It's a very lively dance. I feel happy when I express myself through my dance steps and forget everything else.
YP: Is Latin dance popular in Hong Kong?
Po: With growing media interest in Latin dance, its popularity has risen in recent years. For example, TVB Jade is showing Steps, a drama series about local people doing Latin dance.
Movies about Latin dance such as Shall We Dance - both the Japanese and Hollywood versions - have aroused people's interest. Latin dance centres are doing a lot of business.
YP: Latin dance champions in international competitions are usually of South American or Spanish descent. Do they have an advantage over Asians learning the dance?
Po: Yes, definitely. It has more to do with personality than physical attributes.
Compared to Asians, many foreigners are more expressive and natural performers.
Asians are shy and reserved. Some Asian learners are also put off by the revealing costumes.
Some women compare the costumes to swimsuits. Some men find the tight-fitting satin shirts a bit embarrassing.
YP: Latin dancers perform in pairs. Is it hard to find a partner?
Po: A Latin dancer usually stays with his or her partner for years. They practise and take part in competitions together.
They need to have excellent communication. It also takes time to build trust.
I was very lucky to find my partner several years ago.
YP: With so many pairs performing at the same time on the dance floor, how do you make an impression on the adjudicators?
Po: The most important thing is to find a spot on the dance floor where the adjudicators can see you clearly.
With so many people on the floor, it's easy to be blocked from view.
As there are no fixed rules as to where the contestants can stand, dancers have to choose their positions carefully.
The same applies when the competition is in progress. While spinning around the floor, contestants have to move smoothly among each other.
1983: Took up Latin dance classes at Creation Dancing Academy
1985: Completed Form Five studies
1997-99: Champion in the Hong Kong Latin Open
1997: Awarded first-runner-up prize in the Shanghai National Latin Open
School: Creation Dancing Academy
Classes: Latin dance classes
Duration: 30 lessons
Characteristics: Learners are taught the basic steps of Latin and ballroom dancing. Professional instructors (winners of international Latin dance competitions) design tailor-made courses for learners.
School: Dance Routine
Classes: Latin dance classes for young people
Duration: HK$320 for four consecutive weeks
Characteristics: The course is open to young people aged above 16. You learn the basic steps and get an introduction to different types of Latin dance, including rumba, cha-cha-cha, jive, samba and paso doble.
Graduates can become professional Latin dancers and perform at commercial openings and on festive occasions. As Latin dance gains in popularity, more and more Latin dance training centres are springing up around town. Trained dancers can also take up teaching jobs at the centres, or work as dance instructors at schools and social centres.