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SUNBURST 2018

Cha-cha in a wheelchair - with faster beats

Julie Chong is just one of many determined performers in a charity concert in aid of muscular dystrophy and other causes.

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"Inclusiveness has to mature to view the use of a mobility or occupational aid not in a condescending manner, but as a source that allows the person to function at a higher capacity, enabling the person's innate talents to be nurtured or unleashed." - Julie Chong (right)

WORKING professional by day, Latin-ballroom dancer by night, Julie Chong has made a name for herself by performing at concerts and dancing with local celebrities.

She makes dancing, no mean feat for those with two left feet, seem a breeze, even on wheels. In fact, high-tempo dances are her favourite.

Her love for the dancesport grew out of a wheelchair dancing workshop in 2001 - also where she first met her now-husband. She started dancing regularly three years later and has never looked back.

The self-professed introvert, who jokes about secretly being afraid of the limelight, will take her talent to the stage at Sunburst: The Business Times-CapitaLand Fundraising Concert on Nov 8, to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Singapore and the School of the Arts Student Assistance Fund. The Business Times finds out more about what drives her, in a 60-second interview.

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You've been ballroom dancing since 2004. What keeps your passion going?

When you like something, you'll naturally continue to do it. With dancing in a wheelchair, it's something I never thought could happen when I was young, loving music and having all the romantic notions of dancing with a beloved.

What do you like performing best?

Usually the faster dances like cha-cha, samba and jive. Their more upbeat tempo makes it more playful and fun to dance.

If you were given a chance to dance with anyone in the world, whom would it be?

I'm in awe of wheelchair dancesport champion Piotr Iwanicki. While my physical condition doesn't allow me to have his kind of strength and agility on the dance floor, I try to emulate some of his spirit of showmanship and give a good show.

What are some misconceptions people have had towards brittle bones?

The incidence is one in 15,000-20,000 births. It is even rarer than muscular dystrophy, so I don't think there is enough awareness of misconceptions. People are more likely to associate my small stature with dwarfism.

I think the issue is still being tackled with trials and tweaks, no one really has found the right approach. With para-athletes, there's been a great job to garner pride in them, on par with able-bodied athletes, but it is a narrow view as most of us cannot be as strong, as fast, as agile as they are.

Inclusiveness has to mature to view the use of a mobility or occupational aid not in a condescending manner, but as a source that allows the person to function at a higher capacity, enabling the person's innate talents to be nurtured or unleashed.

What are some personal achievements you hold dear?

That I'm a daughter my parents can now worry less about, a wife that someone found lovely enough to have even without an average height of 1.6m and a mentor for the younger generation of disabled persons.

What do you hope the audience at Sunburst will see?

A great show put up with a lot of heart!