Wah Yan College Kowloon Alumni Association of Ontario

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Wahyanite Chosen to Perform on Australian National TV Show-Everybody Dance Now

After winning a series of dancing competitions and the last Australian National Dancing Championship (see stories in Magdalen and Philip Did It Again and A Memorable Win), our own ’64 classmate Philip Lee and his better half Magdalen were chosen to appear on the Australian National TV show – ‘Ever Body Dance Now’ (similar to our ‘So You Think You Can Dance’). Their dance show will be aired on National TV Channel 10 August 26 http://ten.com.au/everybodydancenow.htm

Here is the story of how a Wahyanite pushing himself against all odds to become a dancing sensation. Wah Yan spirit won again!


Fortune in life rarely happens accidentally and opportunities knock only when one is ready to receive it. As immigrants building our lives in Australia, Magdalen and I have been very conscious of time use and how we could get the maximum benefits out of it. After we got married we took part-time jobs on top of our full-time occupations in order to accumulate wealth in a hurry. We managed the birth of our children in consecutive years so that child-rearing could be less drawn-out to allow us to move onto other things in life. We put in all our spare time into educating our three children so that they could get into selective schools and into university. Concurrently we had been diligent and productive, advancing in our careers with distinction. Everything seemed to have fit into place happily.

We have built our nest for ourselves and our children over the years and when the children started to leave to build their own nests we found ourselves lacking in spiritual stimulation. Only then did we realise that we had not done anything to enrich our own lives. We had tried bush-walking along the foreshore of the beautiful Sydney harbour but after a while it got a bit boring. We knew that we needed some other projects to get ourselves involved again, something challenging mutually and possibly something artistic and creative.
By accident we ran into an old friend in a club who introduced us to ballroom dancing. We took it onboard because it challenged us physically and emotionally. Not long after we joined a dance class and by chance we participated in the dance group training for the Olympic Closing Ceremony. The footage that was flashed around the world caught a glimpse of us for about a second and that was enough to encourage us to stick with the dance hobby. We discovered that we love the limelight and glamour that comes with ballroom dancing. Vanity has become one of the reasons why we want to dance but more importantly we want to do something different in life, something that is artistic and creative.
Initially I was discouraged by a comment from my first teacher that I would never become a good dancer. Whereas the comment was valid in view of my abilities then, I was determined to prove her wrong. I switched teacher and went to Leeanne Bampton's studio for class lessons. Despite my efforts for about 6 months, I was still at the bottom of the class. Dejected, I asked Leeanne if I should give up dancing altogether as it was clear that I lacked the talents for this art. She replied that sometimes talents are not enough to make a good dancer, determination and persistence are more important attributes. She thought we need discipline and encouraged us to join competitive dancing as a way to improve on our dancing.
Our first competition was a disaster. We were supposed to dance the Waltz but when the music started I stood there in dance hold but too nervous to move an inch because people were coming at us from all directions. We must have stood there for about a minute and finally when I started to move the music was nearly finished. I was so embarrassed that I didn't know where to hide my face. Gradually my nerves got better, but a year had elapsed before we won our first competition in Foster, as seaside resort about 300 km from Sydney. We won the Quickstep but when the compere announced our competition numbers and our names as winners, we missed it completely, probably not believing what we heard and one of the judges had to come over to us and told us that we had won.
We competed in 2 styles of dancing: Modern Standard and New Vogue, the former is the international ballroom style whereas the latter is Australian ballroom dancing. While we were progressing quite steadily in Modern Standard, we were lagging behind in New Vogue and was thinking of giving up the style to concentrate on Modern Standard. Leeanne introduced us to a great motivator and one of the best coaches in the New Vogue style in Australia, Peter Todd, but he was teaching in Woollongong 90 km from where we live. It sounds odd but we travelled that distance for our weekly lesson, coming home after midnight. Under his tutelage, however, we had overcome our difficulties in this style and began to win competitions.

It took us three years to get through the system of 5 wins at each of the 4 levels to be elevated to the next level. It is not based on a point system so coming 2nd or 3rd does not contribute to an elevation. Altogether we had to accumulate 20 wins before we were elevated to Level 5 which is the Open Level in each style, i.e. 40 wins in all. We achieved all the wins in three and half years and became very competitive and by the end of 2005 we got into the Final of Modern Standard in the most prestigious championship of the year in Melbourne. We finished 5th place in Modern Standard in the Masters 2 category, a place ahead of a past champion, having switched from the Masters 1 category a few months before. Since then we stayed in the Masters 2 category which is age 50+ and were in the Finals of both the Modern Standard and the New Vogue style in every major competition in Sydney and Melbourne. Not in Canberra, the nation's capital, though. In 2009, we missed out on the Finals of both styles. Unhappy with the results, we trained very hard for the rest of the year and in the following year, we were rewarded with 2nd place in Modern Standard and 3rd place in New Vogue. A wonderful result and a vindication of our efforts.
As it is quite stale competing with the same opponents in Sydney, we have found it necessary to compete interstate in order to gain experience and exposure. We went to the Queensland Open 3 times: in 2009, 2011 and 2012. In 2009, we were runner-up for both styles. In 2011, while we came 2nd in the 8 dance and 3rd in Modern Standard, we missed out on the Final of Open New Vogue completely. This year the Queensland Open had gained national status and became the Jupiter National Championship. We entered this competition with a view to getting back to the Final in the New Vogue style and we ended up winning it. We also won the Open 8-Dance event which is consisted of 4 Standard dances and 4 New Vogue dances. The third event was Modern Standard in which we came 2nd place. Brilliant results! The New Vogue win was our first taste of national limelight: our first national title! Prior to this win we already had 2 inter-state titles: a Victorian title which we won New Vogue in the Premiere Championship in 2011 and another Victorian title in Modern Standard which we won in the Southern Cross earlier in the same year.
Things were looking up for us with a couple of state titles and a national title behind us. To reward ourselves, we took off to 6 weeks vacation in North America. While we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, six weeks away from training had put a damper on the possibility of a good result in the second most prestigious championship of the year: the National Capital Dancesport Championship. In addition, I had picked up a nagging cough in the second week of the holidays and it stayed with me when I got back into training. In fact, it got worse and my GP ordered complete rest on dance training as the best cure for my bronchitis. I went to another GP who understood what the forthcoming competition had meant to me. He gave me a strong dose of anti-biotic and a codeine cough mixture which eventually stopped the cough. In the meantime, Magdalen caught the flu and on the day of the competition, she also became very sick possibly affected by the stress of having to go through the championship. Realising that we were in an unwinnable situation we were prepared to withdraw from the championship and stay in the hotel instead.

It was to Magdalen's credit that she went along to the venue, composed herself and went through the rounds. Almost miraculously we survived the rounds despite a bad fall while dancing the modern Tango. By the time we danced our Finals, we had been in the Venue for 12 hours with Magdalen sick and myself carrying an injured hip as a result of the earlier fall. Things couldn't have gotten worse than it did. But we were keen to finish what we set out to do on the day, so we set our targets just to dance to the best of our abilities and not worry about beating our opponents. True enough, the impossible dream came true. The first final was Open New Vogue, we danced our best and won the coveted National Capital Dancesport Championship Open New Vogue title and in the process wrote our names in the history book of past champions! 20 minutes later we danced the Open Modern Standard final and became the runner-up of the championship. Awesome results indeed under most extraordinary circumstances!
Still basking in the glory of a second national title, we were asked to send in the footage of our performance in the championship for a TV show called Everybody Dance Now. We didn't think much of it at the time but we sent in the footage anyway. A week later we were told that the footage of our Canberra win had been accepted as the audition piece and we are now one of the contestants in the Channel 10 national TV show. What an honour to be involved in a show watched by millions of viewers! We just couldn't believe our luck.

2012 is a good year for us. We have had 8 wins in both the international and Australian style of ballroom dancing: 4 in Sydney, 2 in Gold Coast Queensland 1 in Canberra and 1 in Melbourne and now our appearance in the Everybody Dance Now show in Channel 10. Our journey to the world of dancing has reached a new milestone after 13 years of hard work.

We hope to make use of this opportunity offered by Channel 10's Everybody Dance Now to show young people that their parents and grandparents can enjoy dancing as much as they can. We also want to use our example to inspire other seniors to take up dancing at a mature age as it is never too late to start dancing. We used to call our dance studio Centre for Pre-nursing Home Care because there were many senior dancers learning to dance for health reasons. We haven't been using that term for quite a while now as every senior couple is finding a new meaning in their dancing practice. They are now dancing for the experience that comes with the fun of dancing and not just for the sake of maintaining a healthy body although that is the result of dancing.

We began dancing at 55 and 52 respectively, albeit to find something to prepare ourselves for retirement. It has now become our passion and a very important part of our lives because we believe that dancing has made us more aware of artistic and creative expressions and added a new dimension to our lives. We get to meet people who share the same interests and passion to explore the joy of dancing. The world of dancing knows no class, gender, race or age barriers. Through dancing we come to accept other people from all walks of life. It is a beautiful and wonderful world in which everybody can live in. We fully recommend this to anyone without reservations                                                                             -- By Philip and Magdalen






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