They've Got the Groove

Five public officers shed their inhibitions to show off their splendid dance moves for Challenge.
dancing people

From making his rounds around prison to providing a rehabilitation role to the inmates, Khairul maintains a stern and composed disposition. But once on the opposite side of the prison gates, he sheds his “game-face” and embraces his identity as a break-dancer.

With nothing to hold him back except the rhythm of the beat, he has taught himself to become the break-dancer that he is today.

“I picked up skills from wherever possible, one avenue being films,” he says proudly. “Save the Last Dance, Stomp the Yard, Step Up inspired me to infuse breakdancing and hip-hop, which turned out to be a successful formula.”

When he started break-dancing, one of the many skills Khairul taught himself, like any other aspiring break-dancer, was the “Baby Freeze” – shoulders pressed against the floor, head bent, and legs lifted up in mid-air.

After 10 years of crazy dives, footwork and competitions, he is no longer a stranger to the local dance scene. Along with his crew, Styles from Beyond, he has bagged championships at the Anti Drug Dancework 2006, Avril Lavigne Best Damn Tour Dance Competition, and Groove Nation Street Style Slam.

He was also among the top 10 finalists of The Dance Floor 2006 – Singapore’s very own version of “So You Think You Can Dance”. Only a fantastic mover with a charisma to burn the dance floor can achieve that.

So what keeps this carefree BBoy (a name for break-dancers) going?

“I have maintained a never-give-up attitude,” he says. “In break-dancing, you stand on your hands, you end up falling. But with practice and perseverance you will not fall so easily. I apply this in everything that I do so that there is a better outcome.”

This quality of his is true to that of his idol, Abang Hatta (“Big Brother”), who brought about change by going around tirelessly to various ministries to persuade them to change their perception of break-dancing. Once a banned sport in the 1980s due to its association with the “street” (gangsterism), break-dancing is now embraced by one and all.

Khairul Jailani
Prison Break - Prison Officer Muhammed Khairul Jailani bended the rules 10 years ago when he started break-dancing, once a banned sport.

O Bollywood! We are all familiar with its majestic sets, the elaborate and vibrant costumes, and the sometimes exaggerated yet heart-warming storylines. It is a world often far-fetched from reality, leaving us mesmerised.

For Shalini, her interest in Bollywood dance started when “as a young child, I used to watch Bollywood actresses dancing on TV”.

Her “break” came when she jumped at a request to perform a dance to the popular track Choli ke Peeche at her uncle’s Christmas party. She went on to pick up Bollywood dancing on her own while learning Bhangra, a traditional Punjabi folk dance, from two professional dancer friends.

The dhumkas and jhedkas of Bollywood and the bruaaahs of Bhangra make the dance forms seem larger than life. Yet, Shalini has mastered the moves.

“Initially when I started doing stunts (mainly seen in Bhangra), I thought that it would be challenging, but I then realised that if I put my mind to it, it can be done. The stunts were not that hard to grasp,” she says.

While Shalini looks upon her interest in dance as a form of leisure, Latin Ballroom dancer Le Yi has taken it to competitive heights.

Shalini Rai
Bollywood Madness - Shalini Rai, a Communications Executive with NParks, finds herself in the middle of a Bollywood fantasy when she dances.

Le Yi had her epiphany one day while marching drills in the National Cadet Corps during her teenage years. “I had to try very hard not to move to the beat of dancers practising in the hall nearby,” she recalls.

This sparked her enduring love affair with dance, bringing her to competitions in various countries including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Spain. In 2005, she emerged tops in Singapore.

The lanky dancer has literally knocked out her competition before. “Once, during [a competition], I was in the midst of a double spin when I elbowed one of the girls on my left and hit another girl’s chin on the other side during another spin. I felt bad but at the same time the dance had to go on,” she recalls.

Le Yi’s seemingly effortless kicks and leg work, shoulder shimmies and cheeky poses belie the hard work she has put in over the years. The girl who found dance by chance has grown into a confident dancer who also choreographs and teaches during her spare time.

Zhong Le Yi
When Latin meets Ballroom - With her poise and elegance, Zhong Le Yi, Manager of Corporate Communications at People’s Association, makes Latin Ballroom seem like child’s play.

Cassandra’s petite demeanour fools many into thinking that there is not much she can do. However, when she starts to dance, she moves around effortlessly and shows power in her movements by executing powerful kicks while maintaining a delicate expression.

“I have been exposed to various dance forms – Chinese, hip-hop and modern. But among all, my favourite is Lyrical Jazz. As I am stronger with my legs, I like the kicks and turns,” explains Cassandra.

Her passion for Lyrical Jazz has touched those around her. “I recently choreographed and danced to a light-hearted jazz piece entitled Hair for a dance recital at my church. Coupled with big yahoo hair wigs and glitzy costumes, this piece brought fun and laughter to some 800 people,” she says.

Cassandra Goh
Blues is my Middle Name - Keeping up with the different trends in dance, Cassandra Goh, Manager (Food), SPRING Singapore, has grown from a Lyrical Jazz dancer to a choreographer.

Sitting at her office desk behind a PC, taking important calls, and marking down her boss’s calendar is not all that Maybell is about. Just as she is passionate about her job, her other fervour lies in dance.

Maybell can be best described as a fiery and sensual dancer, who easily executes the sultry and expressive moves of Latin and belly-dancing. My hips felt the pinch as I watched her move; she made it look so effortless, almost like she had no hip bone.

“I like dance forms that involves hip movement, body flexibility, groovy steps and stylish poses,” she said. Little wonder why Maybell likes Belly-dance Flamenco so much.

As much as she is into Latin and Bellydance Flamenco, Maybell has also attempted different dance forms such as Jazz, Ballet, Hip-hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, Ballroom, and competitive Line Dancing. “I enjoy trying out different dance moves because each dance style is expressively unique,” she said.

Like Maybell, the other public officers featured here all have their reasons for loving dance. For them, it is a passion that they choose to pursue, despite holding a day job. The reason is simple. As poet Bob Holman puts it, “When it’s pure dance, it’s pure faith.”

Maybell Koh
Hips Don’t Lie - When Maybell Koh, Personal Assistant to a Director at the Ministry of Manpower, sways her hips to the beat, it leaves many watching in awe.

Know of public officers who play music? Email us at:
    May 12, 2010
    Gurprit Kaur
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