Thu, Jan 28, 2010
The Straits Times
Wear tights? Sure

When he first entered Sota, Year 3 student Ivan Koh, 16, chafed at the thought of having to wear tights for his ballet class, a requirement of his dance specialisation.

'What guy would want to wear tights?' he recalls, pulling a face at the memory.

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Together with a handful of other male dance students in his cohort, he would race from the changing room to the dance studio so no one would see him.

Coming from a hip-hop background, ballet was a shock. 'I never thought I would do ballet in my life. I thought it was,' he blurts out cheekily, 'gay.'

He has since changed his mind.

Egged on by his teacher, he now concedes that he 'might pursue ballet' as a dance form.

'The stunts are quite cool,' he adds.

Dance is in his blood. Both his parents are avid ballroom dancers.

At 10, his librarian mother and his dad, a salesman with a cigarette distributor, enrolled him in hip-hop classes and also supported his decision to audition for Sota.

Says his mother, Madam Norah Chan, 43: 'When he was growing up, he could pick up any rhythm and had no problem following simple moves. I didn't want to let his talent go to waste.

'The most important thing for a mother is to see her child happy,' she adds. 'If I say I want him to become a lawyer or doctor, he'll be studying for my sake, not his.'

After transferring from Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School, Ivan struggled to learn the more technical aspects of movement taught in ballet and modern dance classes.

'I started off very stiff,' he says, adding that he had to endure pain from stretching and muscle-strengthening exercises.

Though he still gets teased by some boys his age, the pay-offs have been worth it. 'Dancing gives me a high. If I'm tired, I go for dance class because it keeps me awake.'

And it is not all girly tutus and pirouettes either. One of his assignments for the year is to buff up his lithe frame so he can be strong enough to do big lifts.

So does that mean girls will be queuing up to be his partner?

He smiles sheepishly: 'Um, we're not at that stage yet.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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