We spoke to Brenda Liew, one of the most accomplished (and awarded) Latin dancers in Asia.
Brenda caught the dance bug early, and began dancing when she was eight. At just 17, she decided to pursue dance professionally and started her teaching career, and eventually founded her dance studio BLDC (Brenda Liew Dance Company), in Singapore in 2014. Today, the talented young lady has expanded regionally and has established two more dance studios, in Vietnam and Taiwan respectively and oversees a total of 12 dance instructors and 60 to 80 dancers collectively.
“Like its name suggests, Street Latin dances were taken out to the streets by the dancers, including Salsa, Bachata, and Cha Cha. These styles deviate from the mainstream ballroom competitions and rules, and are ever-evolving. Current dancers often add other dance influences, use different styles of music and so on. They celebrate these styles by coming together for festivals, parties and congresses where we dance together till the morning and learn so much from one another.
“After founding my dance studio in Singapore in 2014, I got the confidence to branch out overseas, into Taipei and Saigon, with studios led by fellow other established dancers and instructors.
“I’m experienced in several different dance disciplines including hip hop, jazz, classical Indian and modern Chinese dance, but it was the rhythmic world of Salsa and Bachata that I found herself irresistibly drawn to. The first spark of inspiration hit me when I met my mentor, renowned salsa dancer Mario ‘SuperMario’ Hazarika at 13 at a congress in Singapore. He was one of the best salsa teachers in the world. Other than dance, he has inspired me to be a someone who possesses the spirit to give back to the dance scene. I’m touched by his professionalism and selflessness, and will always remember his advice on career longevity.
“Entering the world of Latin dance as an Asian woman, however, wasn’t without its challenges. I wanted to put Singapore on the Latin dance map, but also struggled with feeling underestimated and having to break the stereotypes that Asian dancers aren’t as ‘good’ or ‘flavourful’, especially in the Latin dance world. As a female soloist, I also had the additional hurdle of making my mark in a male-dominant arena; Latin dance is traditionally a ‘partner-work’ dance where the man leads and the woman follows. Despite that, I persevered, and at 18, emerged as the youngest champion of the Australia Salsa Solo Competition in 2012, against more than 20 international dancers.
“I also became the first in Asia to be invited to teach and perform – as a female soloist – at various international dance congresses around the world. But I am cutting down to twice a month this year to focus on my dance company and my health – I was pretty burnt out the past two years! I have to be careful to not allow my passion to turn into a kind of chore, because I tend to over work. I struggle with my health because I’m quite a workaholic, and this job is both mentally and physically demanding. However, the rewards are amazing. I get to travel the world, make new friends, and inspire other dancers. It fills my life in ways I’ve never imagined.”
Her next performance is at a bootcamp in the Vietnam International Latin Festival