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She keeps dancing aunties on their toes... 6 days a week

The sun has yet to rise, but Loo Li Lian’s music cracks through the sounds of the birds’ chirps. Madam Loo, a housewife, has been teaching qigong and line dancing to her 14 friends at a basketball court along Toa Payoh Lorong 8 for 13 years.
For six days a week at 7.30am,  about a dozen aunties gather at the basketball court beside Block 222 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh. “Dancing is not only about moving our arms, legs and body. The brain has to work to keep in step as well, so we won’t easily
For six days a week at 7.30am, about a dozen aunties gather at the basketball court beside Block 222 Lorong 8 Toa Payoh. “Dancing is not only about moving our arms, legs and body. The brain has to work to keep in step as well, so we won’t easily get dementia,” says Madam Loo Li Lian (foreground). ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
“When I started dancing, I got my right and left mixed up, even now sometimes,“ Madam Loo says with a grin. “I don’t know how I ended up leading the aunties... It’s  been more than 10 years. I have to scold some of them to come and exercise
“When I started dancing, I got my right and left mixed up, even now sometimes,“ Madam Loo says with a grin. “I don’t know how I ended up leading the aunties... It’s been more than 10 years. I have to scold some of them to come and exercise, but they know it’s for their benefit. When they get a scolding, they smile and forget about it at the end of the day. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Although known for her no-nonsense demeanour, Madam Loo has a heart of gold and cares for the women’s health and well-being, say the dancing aunties
Although known for her no-nonsense demeanour, Madam Loo has a heart of gold and cares for the women’s health and well-being, say the dancing aunties ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The students agree that Madam Loo is strict but also encouraging. “If you are slower at picking up the moves, you have to take more lessons. You’ll surely be able to learn them one day,” she would say. By 9am, the session is over and the women
The students agree that Madam Loo is strict but also encouraging. “If you are slower at picking up the moves, you have to take more lessons. You’ll surely be able to learn them one day,” she would say. By 9am, the session is over and the women bid one another goodbye before resuming their daily activities. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The soundtrack is a mix of English, Malay, Chinese and Hokkien songs, compiled into a cassette tape by Madam Loo.“When we exercise, everyone benefits.We don’t have to carry walking sticks... I always have to encourage some of them to come down to
The soundtrack is a mix of English, Malay, Chinese and Hokkien songs, compiled into a cassette tape by Madam Loo.“When we exercise, everyone benefits.We don’t have to carry walking sticks... I always have to encourage some of them to come down to exercise. When they do,I will cook noodles, porridge or dessert as a form of reward,” she says.She has lived in Lorong 8Toa Payoh for over 40 years. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The soundtrack is a mix of English, Malay, Chinese and Hokkien songs, compiled into a cassette tape by Madam Loo.“When we exercise, everyone benefits.We don’t have to carry walking sticks... I always have to encourage some of them to come down to
The soundtrack is a mix of English, Malay, Chinese and Hokkien songs, compiled into a cassette tape by Madam Loo.“When we exercise, everyone benefits.We don’t have to carry walking sticks... I always have to encourage some of them to come down to exercise. When they do,I will cook noodles, porridge or dessert as a form of reward,” she says.She has lived in Lorong 8Toa Payoh for over 40 years. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The sun has yet to rise but housewife Loo Li Lian strikes a cheerful note as her music pierces through the sound of birds chirping.

Residents who wake up early know the score as Madam Loo, 66, has been teaching line dancing to her friends at a basketball court in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh for 13 years.

They meet daily except for Sundays. But even with 14 students in tow, she sometimes cannot tell her left from her right, adding: "I'm not lying!"

Madam Loo, who has been married for 45 years and has four grandchildren, gets songs from the Internet for the soundtrack. She plays the songs through speakers and records them onto a cassette tape.

Her dancing lessons are at least two hours long, and most of the participants get a friendly tongue-lashing if they start to falter.

"I hope they didn't disclose that I scold them every day," says Madam Loo, who the women say has everyone's best interests at heart.

As she points out, the elderly need more exercise to be healthy.

"No one here has high blood pressure or high cholesterol," she says.

Her friend, Madam Ng Peak Hong, 64, adds: "Our teacher is very patient with us and is concerned for our health. She encourages us to dance every day."

When asked why there are no men in the group, the usually chatty Madam Loo is at a loss for words, but her friends pipe up: "They are shy to dance with us."

She recalls how six months after she started leading the group, they were asked to perform for the elderly in a nursing home.

Her husband had asked: "You started dancing only recently. You are not shy? You won't be embarrassed? You are so daring."

She felt the pressure to perform flawlessly - and they did.

Even when she is sick, Madam Loo, who also teaches qigong, still gets out and dances.

Her husband has offered her $10 for each day of rest at home, but she reckons money is of no use if she has dementia. She says: "If I don't come, there will be no show!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2019, with the headline 'She keeps dancing aunties on their toes... 6 days a week'. Print Edition | Subscribe