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Singapore First Ballroom Dance Studio- 3 Dance Generations


Singapore First Ballroom Dance Studio- 3 Dance Generations

Above newspaper: Robin Chee's Aunty Gladys Kwan, champion of Rock n Roll in 1957.

Robin Chee & Pele Chee-Lim - Third Generation Dancing Family
Of course the Third Generation dancers are Mr Robin Chee & Mrs Pele Chee-Lim, who finally fulfilled our grandfather's dance wishes as we are:
* 3 times represented Singapore in WDC World Professional Ballroom Championships in Korea, Moscow & Britain (2011-2013).
* 3 times nominated to represent Singapore in Asia Pacific Dance & DanceSport Professional Championships (2012 - 2014), twice fully sponsored.
* Owners of DanceThrob RpMerleon Studios.

Rock n Rolling Aunty Gladys Kwan
The Second Generation was Robin's Aunty Gladys Kwan (above photo). She really did the family proud by being the champion in that competition held in the year 1957, and published on Singapore's then newspaper "The Free Press". She & her husband later setup & ran a very successful catering business in Singapore.

Robin's Grandfather - Ballroom Dance Champion
First Generation of this dancing family was Robin's Grandfather Mr Kwan Yin Siong (father of Aunty Gladys Kwan & Robin's mother) who won many ballroom dance trophies in his heydays according to Robin's First Uncle German Kwan. Grandfather even won over his dance teacher, Mr George R. Collick, many times in local Singapore & Malaysia dance competitions. Uncle German remembers that he was tasked to daily dust his father's precious dance trophies which were placed at a pride of honour location were no one else was allowed to touch.

Grandfather's Dancing House
As a gentleman of that era, it was not seemly for Grandfather to work so he did the next best arrangement by renting out his home's first & second floors in the heart of Chinatown. And amongst the tenants was Mr Collick, a well-known Singapore Ballroom dance teacher who operated "The Rhythm Dancing Studio" a.k.a. "The Collick's Rhythm Dancing Club" at 195B New Bridge Road opposite Majestic Theatre. Earning rental income and at the same time having dance classes everyday are a gentleman's privilege that belongs to no others but Robin's grandfather.

Photos of Robin's mum & her siblings were seen secretly stealing dance steps by peeping through grandfather's staircase railings whenever Collick was teaching dance. Both Uncle German & Uncle Albert (Robin's second uncle) remembered Collick frequently used his teaching stick to poke through the railings at them children. Grandfather's studio house was where Aunty Gladys first started dancing & later learnt her Rock n Roll winning moves & bagged her first champion trophy in 1957! This was the house that churned out Singapore's pioneer batch of local ballroom dance teachers but even though Grandfather was the best having won champion multiple times, it was unheard of for a gentleman such as him to be seen teaching dance for a living due to social stigma of that bygone era.

Grandfather's House - First Ballroom Dance Studio
Grandfather's house was Singapore's First de facto Ballroom Dance Studio in the 1930s & operated till the 1990s according to Uncle German who inherited Grandfather's house, past records and former ballroom competitor Mr Siew Hoi who is still social dancing at 88 years old (in 2016) as his first dance was learnt there. According to him, everyone flocked to the famous "Collick Dance Studio" to learn ballroom dancing for many decades. Currently, Grandfather's 3-storey house is still standing but is no longer family owned. A famous piece of Singapore pioneer dance history that is now made known to all.

Excerpts from The Free Press, 26 December 1957:
"SHOES flew and a girl's shirt came undone as 10 couples rocked and rolled on the dance floor of the Great World cabaret to prove that Singapore is anything but "square".

The 20 teenagers, taking part in the Tommy Steele contest showed a capacity crowd that there is little else the Colony needs to learn about rock-'n'-roll.

The winning couple, Mr Benny Chang and Miss Gladys Kwan, are seen 'real gone' on the right. They won a cheque for $200, records and free cinema passes."

Article first published on 18 February 2013 & now updated with historical factual inputs from Pele Chee-Lim's research.

This article was published on Tuesday 22 March, 2016.
by Pele Chee-Lim

Sharon said on March 12, 2016 at 12:58 AM
Very interesting Singapore dance history and wow, such a long & prestigious dance lineage Robin & Pele. Good that you publish this fact for everyone to know!

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