How much are you willing to sacrifice for your dream? Sam Liu Kai-sum wanted to reach the next level of DanceSport. So to keep pace with his sister, Liu Wan-hin, who is also his partner, he made the tough decision of repeating Form Five.
Sam and Wan-hin are both now in Form Six at Yan Oi Tong Tin Ka Ping Secondary School.
Aesthetic, elegant, vivid and wild - these are just a few words to describe the brother and sister, one of the few major pairs of Hong Kong representatives in DanceSport.
But unlike the radiant performer you see while dancing, when he sits down for an interview, Sam is a bit shy and serious.
"Before the 2013 East Asian Games in Tianjin, we spent so much time in training that my attendance at school was in fact just around half of what's normal," says the 17-year-old. "To improve our training schedule, I decided to repeat Form Five."
Wan-hin, one year younger than her brother, sounds more outgoing. "Despite the fact that we couldn't pocket a medal at that time, the East Asian Games was an unforgettable experience for us. It was the last East Asian Games in this format, and it was a sports event that gets a lot of attention in Hong Kong. There's not enough attention paid to DanceSport here," she adds.
Unlike some dancers who focus either on Latin American Dance or Standard Dance, the Liu's are Ten Dance athletes. That means they take on both categories, with each involving five individual kinds of dance.
Aside from the complicated footwork, the art is very physically challenging. "DanceSport takes great stamina, and athletes are prone to injury, especially girls. See? I am always wearing 3-inch high heels," says Wan-hin, pointing to her shoes.
"Not only is there an injury risk, it's also about big money and time. We train almost every day and go abroad for competitions once or twice a month," adds Sam.
"The standard of the sport in Europe is high but training there is costly. Last year we stayed in Italy for a month and it cost our family more than HK$100,000."
But all the hard work is paying off. Ranked number one in Standard Dance in Hong Kong, Sam and Wan-hin have won a number of awards, including first place in the Viennese Waltz at the 2014 WDSF Taipei Open & Asian Single Dance Championship last October.
Surprisingly enough, when asked if they want to change partners, the brother and sister both nod their heads and give a definite "yes".
"We always argue about steps and arrangements in our dance. Sometimes we wonder how it would be if we had new partners ... then we'd probably control our tempers better," says Sam. "But we are just curious. We are not separating because the rapport we've built is irreplaceable."
The cheerful Wan-hin says: "To be honest, it was a bit embarrassing at first, dancing with my brother. Not only the postures, but also the expression in our eyes, you have to show the emotion. But after dancing together for 10 years, I look at it as 'acting' now!"
In the coming two months, Sam and Wan-hin will be busy preparing for the DSE, but dancing is still their priority. They will go to the Japan World Open early next moth. And after their DSE, they will return to Italy for training.
Wan-hin wants to keep dance a part of her life, but she also looks forward to further education. "I am far behind in academic results now, due to our commitment to dancing. But I still hope that, when I eventually stop competing, I will have the chance to study at university," she says.
But for Sam, dance is life. "I see DanceSport as my lifelong career and hope to be active in the most competitive amateur group. When I get older, I will teach dancing," says Sam.
"I really admire how European dancers find a balance between dancing and life."