Fewer men keen on taking up dance

The streets around Tampines Junction were quiet at 9pm but on the eighth floor of the building, Mr Terence Yeo, 38, was gyrating to loud music, along with about 20 others at at a True Fitness outlet.

The engineer was one of only four men dancing alongside about 15 women in the Sh'bam class, which involves what the fitness chain describes as "hot dance moves" to a selection of popular hits for an aerobic and fat-burning workout.

That was actually a good male turnout as only 10 per cent of dance participants at True Fitness are men, according to the fitness chain.

When Mr Yeo, who is single, tells friends about his thrice-a-week dance classes that he has taken for the last eight years, they tease him about joining it to meet women.

But he is quick to point out that he is there for the exercise.

Dance, from modern to classical ballet, tends to be female-dominated but men who take it up, like Mr Yeo, benefit from developing all-round fitness as well as having a good time.

Mr Yeo learnt taekwondo when he was younger, but found it too aggressive. "Dancing is more complex in terms of body movement and more fun because of the music," said Mr Yeo, adding that this was especially so as the class is led by a "humorous and inspiring" instructor.

As an example, he demonstrated a nifty move that involves swivelling the body, followed by raising one hand while lowering the other - all synchronised to the beat of the music.

Mr Terence Yeo does not mind being one of the few men in his dance classes as dancing helps him destress.
Mr Terence Yeo does not mind being one of the few men in his dance classes as dancing helps him destress. PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

He reckons that the hour-long session gives him a workout similar to a 2.4km run, but one that is many more times as fun.

He sometimes tries out some of the 16 other dance classes offered by True Fitness, such as Zumba and Bodyjam, a calorie-burning dance package. "It helps me destress as the dance moves and music make me forget about work. I also do weights at the gym but when I do weights, I still think about work."

There is another type of dance that is highly effective at honing one's fitness, but it seems to be even more dominated by females - ballet.

Mr Han Kee Juan, 60, principal of the Singapore Ballet Academy, said there are only six males out of the almost 500 students at his school. His students' ages range from four to about 20.

He pointed out that in other countries such as Russia, which has a strong ballet tradition, there is a more balanced proportion of male students to female students.

He said his school, located in Waterloo Street, not only teaches students to dance but also holds seminars for both students and their parents on other aspects of health and fitness, such as nutrition and injury prevention.

"Some athletes learn ballet because it improves their coordination and posture and gives them agility," said Mr Han. For example, former basketball star Larry Bird studied ballet, he added.

Mr Han said ballet is harder than sports in some ways. "You cannot show that you are tired or out of breath... It takes a lot of mental and physical strength. Dancers are among the fittest athletes."

For Mr Yeo, dance is certainly a potent force. "Sometimes I feel tired at the beginning but when the music comes on and others start doing the moves, I become energised again," he said.

"The trick is to just step in."

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'Fewer men keen on taking up dance'. Print Edition | Subscribe