Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Local dance instructor redefining traditional roles

Local dance instructor redefining traditional roles

  • Print

Horace Luong was knee-deep in "solid-phase synthesized ion channels" in 2003 when he started stepping out in suede-bottomed shoes.

His days then were spent bent over a microscope in a University of Victoria chemistry lab, but in the evenings and on weekends, the doctoral student became a dancing fool.

Not content to cut a rug socially, however, the overachieving Luong -- who is also an expert in tai chi and a Chinese watercolour artist who plays Chinese harp -- soon cha-cha-cha'd his way into the world of competitive dancing and became one of Winnipeg's few certified instructors of international standard and Latin ballroom dance.

When he's not teaching organic chemistry at the University of Manitoba, the Halifax native teaches folks of all ages and abilities about the finer points of the fox trot, tango, waltz, Viennese waltz, quickstep, cha-cha, samba, rumba, paso doble and jive. Luong, 32, offers ballroom dance classes, as well as semi-private and private lessons, at three different Winnipeg locations.

The nattily clad chemist views ballroom dance as an expressive art and a sport that employs some of the same skills as tai chi, which he's been practising for 26 years. So, as a dance teacher, he seeks to give students the skills to survive the first dance at a wedding (particularly their own) or a tropical vacation to destinations with Latin dance music, a competitive edge.

"I hope to inspire others to dance technically well," says Luong, who wrote the Canadian Dancesport Federation exams in 2012. "Most of my teaching, even for the social-dance classes, incorporates technical elements of the dancesport aspect of ballroom dancing. (The term "dancesport" was invented to help competitive ballroom dancing gain Olympic recognition.)

"It's physically demanding on the students, however, once they incorporate the elements into their bodies, they not only dance technically better, they're on the road to dancing as an art form."

But Luong's primary goal, he says, is simply to promote the life- and health-enhancing benefits of ballroom dance to as many people as possible.

To that end, he recently started a business called Horace Luong Strictly Ballroom, which caters specifically to "under-represented" groups in Winnipeg, including the LGBT and Chinese communities.

Luong dreams of one day coaching at least one same-sex dance duo to represent Manitoba in the World Outgames, a sporting and cultural event hosted by the gay community. The 2013 World Outgames just wound up Aug. 11 in Antwerp, Belgium.

"I call it bringing equity to the dance floor," he says. "You always see the traditional male lead and female follow. The advantage with the LGBT community is they are open to trying out different roles."

John Dobson, 51, credits reality TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing With the Stars, as well as Dancing Under the Canopy events at The Forks, with inspiring him to give dancing a whirl.

He took a year of salsa lessons with a female partner before signing up for Luong's same-sex dance classes.

While Dobson says he hadn't been particularly bothered by the strict gender roles in conventional dance classes, he says he was intrigued by the idea of switching roles.

"Being male, I had only ever led, but dancing the other role gave me a much better appreciation of what is involved, and I would recommend it to anyone." (The next class is Aug. 27. Register at volunteer@rainbowresourcecentre.org.)

Baby boomers are hardly an under-represented segment of the ballroom dance world, but more of them, perhaps inspired by the above-mentioned TV shows, seem to be catching the competitive dance bug.

Liz Sellors and her husband took up ballroom dancing about 10 years ago so they could feel more confident on the dance floor at weddings. They wound up doing dance showcases for a local dance club and a couple of studios.

But it was when she met Luong that Sellors, who is in her 60s, became "obsessed."

"It's a huge part of my life," says Sellors, an interior designer with Number Ten Architectural Group, who just returned from her lunch-hour practice session at a local dance studio. She dances at least one hour a day, sometimes up to five, if lessons, classes and workshops are included. She also studies a technique manual.

While her husband remains a social/recreational dancer, Sellors is training with Luong for a pro-am international standard ballroom competition in Vancouver next year.

"I would call it training when I do something over and over again 20 times until I get it right. He's very tough," the stylish, petite woman says affectionately of Luong. "He makes me practise by myself."

carolin.vesely@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2013 G1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jets defencemen ready to face adversity

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goose sits in high grass near Marion Friday afternoon for cover -See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 18 - May 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google