There is a time for everything. A time to work, a time to play, a time to age, a time to stop. But for ballroom dance veteran Frances Teoh, this is not particularly the case.
For Teoh, time and age are but mountains to surmount, not pits to avoid. She believes that if a person – even after retirement – keeps busy with a chosen passion in life, then that passion can ensure you’ll just get better with age.
“I often tell seniors, who have given up on life, and stopped doing what they loved to do, not to stop. Once you stop, you are actually dying,” says Teoh in recent interview in Petaling Jaya.
“My dad stopped. He had an early retirement and his health deteriorated after that. He didn’t live very long,” she adds.
KL-based Teoh is a living testament that age is never a determinant to call it quits and throw in the towel.
At 64, she is still actively involved in the dance scene at home and abroad.
She owns the Frances Dance Academy, with branches in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Her involvement with the World Dance Council (WDC) also takes her around the world to judge international dance competitions. The WDC is a platform to support the world championships in competitive ballroom dance.
In fact, Teoh, as the Malaysian Ballroom Dancers Association’s international liaison officer, is currently helping to organise the 2017 WDC Professional Latin World Championship, which will be taking place at Setia Spice Convention Centre in Penang on Nov 18.
“It’s happening for the first time in Malaysia. There will be participants from more than 40 countries. Each country will send two couples to compete. It’s definitely a boost for Latin dancing enthusiasts here,” she says.
But Teoh’s life was not always this busy or adventurous. She began her journey into the dance world as a ballet dancer and teacher. Teaching was the safer option to take for its financial stability. However, Teoh says the teaching route, though a nobel one, was not entirely fulfilling.
She decided to quit teaching ballet in the early 1990s and looked at other dance forms to pursue as a career.
Teoh knew she had to return to her first love – dancing! Her life changed when she ventured into ballroom dancing during that period. A twist of fate brought her and Datuk Tham Cham Soo together for a ballroom dance competition in 1994. The duo bagged the top prize and together, they have clinched countless awards in South-East Asia and Asia Pacific since then. The pair is even listed in the Guinness Book Of Records and the Malaysian Book Of Records for its outstanding achievements in ballroom dancing.
Teoh reveals she and her partner have stopped competitive dancing. However, they are still active in other aspects of the dance scene.
Tham, in his late 70s, also teaches at Frances Dance Academy, and provides a wealth of experience to students there.
There are no signs of slowing down for Teoh. She travels abroad to conduct dance workshops.
“I won’t say I have reached what I want. I would like to do more. I’m planning an outreach programme for people who can’t afford to take up dance classes. The plan is to get dance as part of the school curriculum here,” reveals Teoh, calling this her contribution to the society.