At the tender age of seven, Ashley Khoo had already harboured an interest in tap dancing.
Luckily, her neighbour at that time was none other than Farah Sulaiman. As principal of the Sayang Academy of Dancing, veteran choreographer, producer and artistic director Farah has tutored many stars of Malaysia’s dance landscape.
“Aunty Farah asked whether I wanted to join a charity show, and with my parents’ encouragement, I said yes,” said Khoo, now 15.
Since then, Khoo’s tap dancing skills – under the guidance of Farah – has steadily improved.
A student of MyIGCSE Learning Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Khoo has been involved in many charity productions.
At 12, she was cast in a music video for Nestle Nestum 3-in-1. “The casting person asked aunty Farah whether she knew of anyone between 11 and 13 who can dance well. In the end, it was down to me and my friend. They chose me, as they liked the sound of my ‘tap’.”
Alongside guitarist Az Samad and vocalist Nadhira, Khoo showed off her tap dancing prowess. “That shoot took eight hours,” recalled Khoo. “It was hard, but fun.”
This year, the main highlight was being one of the backup dancers for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 9th ASEAN Para Games.
“We got to perform with Yuna,” said Khoo with a smile. “I was very happy as I have never been to the National Stadium (in Bukit Jalil). And I was reunited with all my friends.”
Apart from dancing, Khoo loves to swim. “I have taken part in swimming competitions before, and won a couple of medals. But now, my focus is on tap dancing.”
As to the songs she likes to tap dance to, Khoo singles out Jordin Sparks’ One Step At A Time and Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling.
According to Khoo, dancing has taught her discipline. And it has led to awakening her awareness about charity.
“I am very proud of all the charity productions (Sparks Of Broadway and DanSing Thru Broadway) that I have been involved in,” mused Khoo.
“When I was younger, I didn’t know anything about charity. My parents sat me down and told me about people who were less fortunate, and how a small contribution goes towards making them happy.”
As for her ambition as an adult, Khoo aspires to be a mathematics teacher. “As I also love to dance, I don’t mind teaching tap dancing.”
Asked for her idol, Khoo replied: “I look up to my dancing teacher. Aunty Farah has taught and inspired me and others so much. And if we make any mistake, she lets us know gently.”
She also credits her parents. “They have always been there for me, driving me to classes and auditions.
“If you have understanding and supportive parents like mine, it’s so much easier to chase your dreams,” said Khoo, who was accompanied by her mother Adeline Saw to the photo shoot at Menara Star, Petaling Jaya.
“From a very young age, Ashley already showed an inclination towards dancing,” said Saw, beaming with pride. “Whenever we put on a song, she could easily tap dance to it.”
As a former music teacher, Saw believes that it is important for parents to nurture and encourage their child’s talent.
“We should expose children to as many forms of music as possible, and it is up to them whether they want to pursue it. They need to have innate passion.”
Khoo will next participate in the charity concert Satu Hati – Ekspresi OKU by Adiba Radzi & Friends. It is held on Nov 29 and 30 at Theatre KuAsh, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL. For tickets, visit OKU Sentral Facebook page.