Living a childhood dream

Broadway group is very active in Miri.

This Broadway group is very active in Miri.

AS a young girl, Helen Lai of Miri dreamed of a career as a dance instructress.

But when she grew up, it all seemed like a pipedream as she had to put her girlhood ambition on hold to help support her family. Even if one day, she had the time and money to pursue her dream, she felt she might, by then, be already ‘too old’ to compete – or teach dancing fulltime, let alone open a dance academy.

She, thus, never got to fulfill a cherished wish until five years ago when she was dumbstruck to see a 50-something female dancer winning a prize at an international dance competition. There and then, she vowed to herself: “If she can do it, so can I.”

She remembers that defining moment in her life gave her the inspiration and courage to go after her dream and start the Broadway Dance Academy in Miri – for good measure.

Over a span of five years, she toiled tirelessly to obtain the necessary qualifications such as certificates on all levels of dance education. She also took part in dance competitions abroad for the experience and exposure.

All the hard work paid off. And today, she is living her childhood dream of becoming a dance teacher with running a reputable dance school to boot.

“I have been grooming young Mirian dancers for local and international competitions. In fact, what I have achieved is beyond my wildest dreams,” she enthused.

There have been many challenges along the way, and she has been able to overcome them with a positive attitude, a keen business sense and a strong passion for dancing.

Presently, she has two dance teachers at her Academy – Julito (or Lioto) and Michael from the Philippines – plus an increasing number of students. She has also been doing a lot of demonstrations to promote her school in Miri and beyond.

Helen has been invited to raise funds at the Miri Red Crescent Carnival 2016. And she is volunteering to help out with her dance team at Bintang Megamall, Miri, on May 1.

With her two assistants (Lito and Mike), she has been preparing her students for the event with great enthusiasm.

A Red Crescent spokesperson said: “Helen Lai is very busy travelling and attending dance performances and competitions outside Miri but she has the heart to support our fund-raising for the needy. Together with the Miri Red Crescent, she will be putting up a good show for the MRC Carnival. She has helped us many times over the past two years and we are very grateful.”

A fulfilling job

Helen’s leading assistant Lito said he enjoyed teaching and helping young dance students, especially those who were keen and talented.

“The parents take a keen interest in their children’s progress and performance. When the students have a chance to perform in public, they are very responsive. Taking them out for public performances is a great responsibility but I’m glad the parents are very supportive, even coming out to help with costumes and disciplining their children – not that they need much disciplining,” he added.

Michael chimed in: “It’s nice to be in Miri and interact with people who love dancing. Miri is a nice place, a resort city with a lot of potential for dance enthusiasts.”

Helen has choreographed a number of dances for the Carnival, some with strange names like Dear Future Husband, Little Apple, Burn the Vegetables and Chicken Dance. Mirians can turn up to find out for themselves if they had seen these dances performed before!

Helen and her two assistants will go on stage as well to do the bachata, salsa, swing, and rock and roll. Besides, there will be a demonstration of an old-time favourite – ‘the Scottish dance’ – in the evening.

Those who remember the Twist will also get to watch this ‘hot’ dance performed on stage.

One mother said: “Children are very quick to learn the dance steps and perform on stage but Broadway Academy goes further than that – it also teaches discipline.

The principal Helen Lai provides ample opportunities for the students to gain experience and build up their confidence through public performances.”

For this mother, it is something money cannot buy and normal schools cannot provide.

She also queried: “How many students can a dance school train each year? Some teachers just allow the student leaders to train one or two groups of dancers and the knowledge is not passed on.

“When the groups leave, the dances are usually forgotten, and maybe over the next few years when there are no students capable of doing these dances well, it will mean the end of these dance repertoires for the school.”

However, she conceded in some schools, concerts were well organised, usually with sponsors paying for the choreography, special music scores and costumes.

“Some mothers even spend tidy sums on costumes for their daughters just to perform one dance. Learning proper dancing is expensive but it’s worthwhile with a good teacher like principal Helen around.”

Helen Lai’s Dance Academy had won many kudos in recent years. Her assistants are certified by the World Dance Council.

In fact, Lito is a qualified international dance adjudicator, according to the MRC spokesperson.

The funds raised at the Carnival will be used for humanitarian, charitable and social activities of the Malaysian Red Crescent in Miri.

The spokesperson said MRC is grateful to the public and the many charitable bodies for their support, adding: “We like to especially thank Helen Lai of Broadway Dance Studio for their collaboration. We also like to thank the Broadway Little Dancing Stars and their parents.”

The Broadway Dance Studio is also organising a two-hour non-stop “Zumba” dance in aid of MRC, Miri Chapter, on May 1 at Level 1 New Wing Bintang Megamall.

Zumba instructors (ZIN) from Miri and Brunei will lead in a few dance steps to add to the gloss of this special event. Tickets at RM10 each are now available. Call Miri Red Crescent Office (428032) or 411121 for further enquiries.