First Love in Ballet

The first ballet teachers are the most significant figure in one's ballet journey--they spark our love in dance; they teach us the basic techniques; they inspire us to learn more. A good ballet teacher brings us further in dance while the opposite one does the reverse.
The Tan sisters
Back in the 80s, a pair of sisters opened the ever first ballet school in Johor Bahru (JB Ballet Academy) and the eye view of locals. Ms Tan Lee Tee and her sister brought the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus to this small town when ballet was already very popularly adapted by the upper class society in Kuala Lumpur.

The English-spoken ladies had a great reputation and successful business in Johor Bahru. They produced graceful and strong dancers who passed the RAD exams with flying colours, a few of them including me went on teaching ballet even until now.

In spite of the language barrier (my family speak Mandarin at home) and financial pressure (my parents both worked as humble high school teachers), my mom was generous enough to enroll me in Ms Tan's Pre-primary class. She thought ballet was good to train me with proper forms since what I did was some messy random improvisation with music in the living room.

Ms Tans introduced me to the world of ballet. They taught me the basic feet and arm positions, the french terms and disciplines. I had the first RAD exam and ballet performance of my life because of Ms Tan.

I was never an excellent student in Ms Tan's class. I don't have a natural ballet body, my feet and ankles are stiff, my hips are so narrow that I could never perform a perfect turnout. I couldn't do split due to the tight muscle. In the exam, I was always placed as the 2nd or 3rd candidate of the group. In the performance, back row was a safe place for me as I couldn't remember the steps accurately ( 'copy the girls in front of you', they said). I didn't even like to wear tutu!
Minnie in the back row


Nevertheless, Ms Tan managed to find some potential in me: my musicality is exceptionally good--I could dance like a musician. I was so good in improvisation that I could dance like in a performance with any given music anytime. I could jump and turn fearlessly.

These qualities set me apart from other dancers. In the later years,I have been given numerous opportunities to perform on stage for my outstanding musicality, performance skills and strong allegro techniques. I found confidence in myself because of dance. Hence, I have stayed in dance till now.

Thank you very much, Ms Tan. And of course, my dearest mom.


Choo Ting, 12 March 2020

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