Dance floor acrobats
Forget Christmas balls. For a real taste of dance as a sport, there is dancesport.
Two Form Six students can tell you all about it. Joseph Lam Hin-ting and Selina Chan Chui-mei have been a top local dancing pair for two years.
Joseph and Selina study at Pok Oi Hospital Tang Pui King Memorial College in Yuen Long. They excel in both the standard dance and Latin dance categories and have won many titles and awards in local and overseas competitions.
Joseph started dancing in Form One, when he was 12. Selina started learning Chinese Dance aged six.
Both Joseph and Selina had a different partner before they teamed up together.
'All of a sudden [my former partner] began growing taller very fast,' Selina says. 'So we had no choice but to find new partners.'
Joseph was just the right height. The 18-year-olds had known each other long before from dancing classes and jelled at once.
'Neither one of us dominates,' Selina says. 'We talk things over.'
A great partnership in dance is also a matter of practice, Joseph adds. 'Practice makes perfect,' he notes. 'We have to know our routine inside out.'
Yet mishaps can still happen. Last year during a local competition at Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Joseph tripped up and sprained his ankle.
His teachers urged him to withdraw from the competition, but Joseph insisted on carrying on.
'I had to perform five dances in the final and I told myself I just couldn't walk away after the first dance. If I had, it would have been unfair to Selina. I knew I needed to stay and continue,' says Joseph.
Selina had to be extra careful during the pair's routines. 'I knew I needed to do my part perfectly to help him out,' she says.
After bravely limping through the competition, Joseph could barely walk. He had to stop his training for two months, which meant for the entire summer last year, he was unable to dance.
'Yet he was still there for training sessions to learn and watch me dance,' Selina says. 'That helped him stay motivated.'
Standing behind them are their friends, parents and teachers. Leung Gar-wai, a teacher, plays an especially important role in the two's successes. She serves as a facilitator by sending them notes for classes that they miss when they go overseas. That helps the pair stay on track academically.
Financially, Selina and Joseph manage to cover their expenses through a sponsorship from Pok Oi Hospital.
'A dancing class for two can cost thousands of dollars,' Selina says.
'And sometimes we need to cover our travel expenses to competitions ourselves. We try to save money in various ways, such as staying at budget hotels.'
Some dance teachers are also willing to train them at reduced rates to help nurture their talent.
To repay people for all the support, Selina and Joseph make a point of sharing their experiences with their schoolmates.
Three times a year they also give them dance lessons as part of the school's extra-curricular activities day. They teach basic steps to hundreds of students that have no training in dancing at all.
The pair just competed at the World DanceSport Federation's Asian Pacific Championship held in Melbourne, on December 11 and 12. They finished as second runners-up in the Open Youth Latin category.
After a short break from competing, Selina and Joseph will begin qualification rounds for the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin.
'This is a huge event in our sport,' they say. 'It is obvious that our sport has become better known after the East Asian Games in Hong Kong two years ago. We missed out on that event, but this time around we want to be there.'