By Maureen Koh
HE IS known by many names - Dancing Uncle, Grandpa Gaga and the Go-Go Ah Pek, to list a few.
But Mr Chua Kim Seng doesn't care what people call him so long as they let him dance.
The retiree is a mini-celebrity of sorts at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre, People's Park Complex and Albert Street, where he is known for his impromptu dance performances in front of crowds.
He has become such a hit that there are at least 20 videos of his dances uploaded on YouTube and other websites.
Mr Chua, 65, insists he is not doing this to attract attention.
He told The New Paper in Mandarin: "I just love dancing. It's a good form of exercise. You know, at our age, we have to keep ourselves going or we'll be 'gone case' very quickly."
Mr Chua said when he started showing off his moves at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre about seven years ago, people thought he was mad.
"I've seen some of them with their mouths open, looking at me in disbelief," he said. But that hasn't stopped Mr Chua, who has since earned himself several loyal fans.
Among them are web designer Henry Wong and his girlfriend, undergraduate Alicia Lim, who call Mr Chua "Go-Go Ah Pek"
Mr Wong, 30, said: "We love the way he just loses himself in the music. Hey, my girlfriend always says she wishes we could dance like Go-Go Ah Pek."
Miss Lim, 23, agreed.
She said:"We think he has to update some of his moves, but I dare say neither of us is as agile as he is."
And online comments on the videos have generally been positive.
Local band King Kong Jane even posted a video of Mr Chua dancing at their one of their gigs on their blog.
They wrote: "He's a regular at local gigs. He's really good at dancing spontaneously. "And he's the uncle I'll always remember for giving us one of our best gigs yet."
But not everyone is amused when Mr Chua starts dancing at concerts. Media executive Ivy Lee, 36, first saw Mr Chua's moves when local band 53A performed last year.
She found him "endearing" but when he turned up at another gig by King Kong Jane a month later, she got irritated.
Ms Lee said: "I felt he was just trying to hog the limelight, especially since he was facing the audience.
"And he gave this 'come look at me' impression. I thought he was also not being fair to the bands who were performing."
Mr Chua is aware not everyone is supportive.
He said: "I can't expect people to understand what I do.
"But I don't mind what others say because I'm enjoying myself." He added that he prefers to face the audience because that's the only way for him to gauge if they are enjoying his performance. The Esplanade is not the only venue where Mr Chua performs.
The self-proclaimed five-time dance champion can also be seen outside the CK Department Store at People's Park Complex. He said: "Sometimes, I give free lessons to the senior citizens around that area - it helps them to pass time and to keep fit."
Housewife Ong Ah Lay, 68, is happy to "pick up dance tips" from Mr Chua.
She said: "My 8-year-old grandson was quite impressed when he visited me on the first day of Chinese New Year.
"He was complaining about being bored, so I put on that Chinese New Year song (to the tune of Lady Gaga's Poker Face)and started to imitate Ah Chua's moves.
"He was thrilled."
How does Mr Chua's family feel about his public appearances? He said, laughing: "I've shown them newspaper clippings (in The New Paper and Shin Min Daily News last year) and they just smile."
His wife is not an avid dancer but does not object to his "hobby", added Mr Chua. The couple have a 32-year-old son, who works as a computer engineer, and a daughter, 31,who works in the finance sector.
Mr Chua said: "They're okay with it too, but my children have told me not to overdo it. I take it to mean that they don't want me to over-exert myself."
The former seaman, who retired 10 years ago, said that he doesn't suffer any ailments apart from high blood pressure.
He said: "It's because I used to love drinking when I was younger. "That's why I think dancing is a healthier form of entertainment."
Learns from music videos He said he has never received any formal dance training but he learns from watching "all kinds of music videos".
Said Mr Chua: "I keep replaying the videos until I get the hang of it." He is also a fan of getai performances - in particular, popular singer Mai Hui - during the Hungry Ghost Festival.
"When she sees me, she introduces me to the audience as 'le lin wu wang' (loosely translated as senior king of dances)," he said.
Mai Hui confirmed she has seen Mr Chua perform and that she does not mind him "stealing the limelight".
She said: "He does not disturb us. In fact, sometimes, he adds value to our entertainment, so I'm fine with him." But the conditions must be right before he jumps up and dances, he said.
"The songs must be hot and fast. It's only then that I feel my limbs come alive," he said.
"If the songs are slow, I'd just sit down and enjoy the show."
This article was first published in The New Paper.