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Local belly dancers ‘shimmy’ their way to victory

2019-07-26 07:30     Comment:1

Who knew that Macau has a group of young girls, aged from 9-12, who could shimmy their way to the world stage and win an international belly dance championship?

Shimmy, according to the team’s instructor, Hana Chio Sok Wai, the word originates from Egypt and describes a kind of dance movement in which the whole body shakes or sways. The word was popularised by one of Jason Derulo’s songs, “Swalla”, that talks about girls dancing at the club.

“People tend to sexualise the idea of belly dancing. However, the dance has its own elegance and beauty. It was the beauty of it that caught my attention when I first learnt about it,” Chio told MPD Weekender yesterday in her studio in the Avenida de Horta e Costa area.

Chio said that she has been dancing since a very young age but nothing caught her attention like belly dancing. She explained that when she was a university student, she was eager to learn more about belly dancing so she flew to different countries and cities to learn from professional dancing instructors. She had instructors from South Korea, the Chinese mainland, and Morocco.

She said belly dancing was “easy to learn but hard to excel in” because it required a lot techniques and small movements like “shimmy”, adding that this movement could be done with different body parts, shoulders, the belly and even the tongue. She noted that belly dance is a colloquial name, pointing out that it is officially known as Middle Eastern dance or Arabic dance in the West. It is, she pointed out, one of the most ancient dances, as it has a 4,000-year history.

“Some people give up on belly dancing but not us,” said Chio, who is a certified belly dance instructor.

Persistence and calmness

Last week Chio along with eight girls attended “The World Belly Dance Festival” in Singapore. The team won first prize, with two of the members, Leong Ka Tong and Ng Si Weng, coming joint second in the solo competition, while another girl, Lao Hong Cheng, came third. Most of the girls have been learning belly dancing with Chio for at least five years. Around 200 belly dancers from around the world took part in last week’s Singapore contest.

“What impresses me the most is their persistence and their calmness,” Chiu said while smiling at the circle of young belly dancers.

Leong Hoi Cheng, 12, the oldest member of the group, said that her younger sister was not feeling well on the day of the competition but she insisted on performing, adding “after the competition, she [her sister] fell ill immediately, and got a fever.”

“Her subconscious kept her well until the performance was over,” the older sister told MPD Weekender, and then the group broke into laughter.

The instructor added that they acted calm and nonchalant at the results of the competition. Chio said that they viewed the competition as a chance to visit Singapore and also as learning experience. Winning or not, does not affect their mood a lot, according to Chio.

When asked if they were surprised by the results, they all answered that they were not expecting victory because it was their first time to compete on the international stage.

A smile goes a long way

As one of the judges in the competition, Chio’s grading was especially harsh on her own dancers. When asked what the team could do better in their next competition, which is Shanghai next month, Chio turned to her students and repeated the question.

A few girls immediately answered that they should work on their “smile and confidence”.

“Maybe it was because they were nervous but a smile can compensate a lot of technical immaturity. It gives the judges and audience a better impression,” said Chio.

“Also, stay humble,” said Ng Si Weng, a 10-year-old belly dancer. She said that winning one championship did not mean they could be proud.

Chio said that she required the girls to stay behind after their performances to learn from other dancers, whether it’s the good or the bad side.

According to Chio, synchronisation is the key to a good belly dance performance. Her students have been training long and hard for the past few weeks to improve their synergy and teamwork.

Chio said that the other thing that was considered as a major mistake was dropping the props. Fortunately, Chio said, that this had not occurred in any of their performances yet.

Costumes

Belly dance is known for its shiny and eye-catching costumes. Chio said that each of their costumes are hand-made. When she said that the girls were in love with their dresses, they all nodded and agreed.

Chio pointed out that she orders different costumes for different performances or occasions. For example, when they were invited to the local festival previously known as the Latin Parade for the past five years, each dress was tailor-made for the girls.

The younger sister, who fell sick after the performance, loves her dress so much that even though she had a fever and was shivering, she insisted on keeping on her beautiful costume to go on stage to receive her prize to show off the beauty of it.

Eight of the girls from the group will be shimmying their way to another competition in Shanghai next month, another one in South Korea in October and one in Macau in November, where about 400 contestants are expected to join the event, Chio said.


Belly dance students pose in their dance studio after speaking to MPD Weekender yesterday.


Leong Ka Tong, Ng Si Weng and Lao Hong Cheng, who won prizes in their solo performance at the bellydance competition in Singapore last week, pose in their dance studio yesterday. Photos: Prisca Tang and Monica Leong


Hana Chio Sok Wai poses for MDP Weekender in her dance studio yesterday.

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