SANDAKAN: Located in Bandar Kim Fung nearly 10 minutes’ drive from the town centre here, Happy Dancers is one of the oldest dance studios in the State.
It offers a wide range of dance as well as fitness classes for women and promotes a healthy lifestyle culture. However, the main focus is on dance.
With the growing popularity of many dance genres, Happy Dancers has tapped into this trend and brings together women keen to cultivate their body and mind while making friends with women who share a common interest – dance.
It started in 1992 as a family business and was open to women of all ages with an interest in social dance, local cultural dances, aerobics and jazz classes. The business was first run by well known restaurateur Alice Chin who was fond of tap dancing and waltz.
“There’s nothing much you can do in a small town in the early 90s. I have always loved dancing and so do my family and friends. My late mother was formerly active in Chinese Opera,” explained Alice.
Alice has seen many other fitness and dance studios open and close since 1992. According to her, the health and fitness industry is not a business that one could make a fortune and the dancing class business in Sandakan is not an exception. The attendance rate is very much affected by festive seasons and holiday breaks. Getting and training instructors are timely and costly too.
With the Asian financial downturn in 1997, Alice focused on her restaurant business and the dance studio was passed over to her sister, Monica. Fortunately, like her sister, Monica did not let poor business get in the way of strong interest.
Unlike Alice, Monica had to pick up the pieces quickly and learn the moves from a few professional dancers. But ultimately, it was passion and the support of friends that drove her to success.
Monica added line dancing and standard ballroom dancing to the studio’s repertoire months after taking over. The two new additions were an unexpected hit with couples and senior citizens.
Ten years after the official opening of the dance studio, Alice’s second daughter Cindy Mahsan introduced Belly Dance to Sabah. Cindy already had dance credits in her resume. Although Middle Eastern dance is her forte, she also does hip hop, Polynesian dance, Bollywood dance and Brazilian samba.
Cindy had to juggle between running her own business and a dance studio after her aunt Monica handed over the studio to her in 2006. As the studio was in Sandakan, Cindy had to keep herself temporarily rooted to her hometown. It was a big change from years of travelling and giving dance workshops in several States.
“To tackle a genre, you must first have passion and humility, then guts and patience. This is definitely a tiring and sweaty business, but just like my grandma, mum and aunty, I learnt and I persisted,” Cindy commented.
The studio has to date produced many dance instructors and performers who won state, national and South East Asian dance awards. Cindy also works with Non Governmental Organisations to create quality dance fitness awareness and help out with charity work.
- new Sabah Times (http://www.newsabahtimes.com.my/nstweb/fullstory/24701)
- Happy Dancers