Malaysian ballroom dance enthusiasts can now look forward to better opportunities with the formation of a unified body.

Launched last week, the Malaysia Ballroom Dance Council (MBDC) aims to support and nurture ballroom dance in Malaysia, as well as to highlight Malaysia’s profile in the international ballroom dance world. Besides seeking membership with world dance bodies, MBDC will also assist dancers in obtaining qualifications and certifications.

With the formation, the MBDC is the official authority in all ballroom dance activities here – be it in social, art, sports or competitive form (in all disciplines). The purpose of this Klang Valley-based organisation is to also advocate transparent adjudication. The choice to practice the “Freedom to Dance” is a priority, too.

“There are lots of (scene) politics here. Many small associations within the industry need a voice. It has become one big personal empire for some schools and this is very unhealthy,” says Datuk Geoffrey Tan, MBDC president and dance enthusiast.

“We were talking about having this council for a while and it has finally been formed. It’s open to everyone and the time has come to unite the community,” he adds.

Through the activities organised by the council, members will have an avenue to enhance dance technique, make new friends and gather information about the dances.

“I’m a non-playing captain with no commercial or financial interest as dancing is just my hobby. I just helped organise the structure of the council,” says Tan.S

Siblings Caitanya and Saibya Thialan are rising stars in ballroom dance. – Brian Moh/The Star

Previously, the largest ballroom dance association in the country was the Penang-based Malaysian Dancers’ Association but it was struck off the Registrar Of Societies list last year. That provided the impetus in the forming of the MBDC, which is incorporated with a Competitive Dance Committee and a Social Dance Committee.

Once thought as a retired person’s pasttime, ballroom dancers are becoming younger by the day, with children as young as four enrolling in classes and competing by the time they are eight or 10. In fact, many international competitions have a juvenile category for those below 12.

Ballroom dance refers most often to the 10 dances of International Ballroom (or Standard) and International Latin. These are waltz, foxtrot, quickstep, tango and Viennese waltz in the ballroom category, and rumba, samba, paso doble, cha-cha-cha and jive in the Latin category.

Every dancer aspires to compete and win a prize in the Blackpool Dance Festival, which is the ultimate competition. Started in 1920, the eight-day event is the world’s first and most famous annual ballroom dance competition of international significance, held in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, England.

One doesn’t have to be a national champion to participate. Anyone can register and try their luck for sheer experience but of course, only the elite dancers get to the top.

“The Malaysian standard is good, but not excellent. We used to be very good, but other countries have moved ahead or surpassed us, especially the eastern Europeans. People can proclaim they took part in Blackpool but they get ousted after the first round so that doesn’t say a lot. What counts is if they win something,” adds Tan.

Through the MBDC, Tan hopes to organise more Asian competitions to draw in world-class dancers, as well as eventually to promote Malaysia as a hotspot for dance tourism.

An MBDC endorsed IDA Kuala Lumpur International Dance Asia and MBDC National Ballroom Dance Competition will be held at the Manhattan Grand Ballroom, Berjaya Times SQ Hotel in Kuala Lumpur on March 15. Elsewhere, a NATD Medallist Competition at OCM Hall, Wisma OCM in Kuala Lumpur will be held on May 10.

Come November 1, MBDC will host the World Ballroom Dance Championship at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, where the reigning world champions are expected to perform.

For details on MBDC, e-mail mbdcouncil@gmail.com or call (03) 2856-3927.