Aussies Dancin' in Malaysia ...
Roxanne (Smith), Simon (Ward) and Terry Hogan were invited to do a workshop tour to 4 Malaysian cities, and along with Roxanne's mum Margaret Mary, and three other Brisbane dancers we headed off at the end of October.
The tour was organised by Michael Lim and his wife Sally, ex students of mine who divide their time between Malaysia and Brisbane. Michael was largely responsible for taking line dancing to Malaysia and especially for setting up the large network of teachers around Ipoh which was our first stop - he used to go back to Malaysia and teach the dances he learned at my classes in Brisbane to friends at his house, and it grew from there. There is now a group of 20-30 teachers in that area who still meet on Monday nights at his house to learn and share new dances. Apart from the wonderful sense of solidarity and genuine friendship this has created, it also means that the instructors all teach the same dances, something that seems to be happening less and less these days in most other places that I know.
Our first introduction to most of this wonderful group of teachers was at a lunch shortly after we arrived in Ipoh (about 3 hours drive north of Kuala Lumpur) where we had our first introduction to an array of local food which was to become one of the highlights of the trip for me being a confirmed 'foodie', although my other unadventurous cohorts often took comfort in KFC - enough said!!
The food continued that evening with a pot luck dinner/social with the instructors at a small local hall where we each taught a dance and got the chance to socialise and dance off some of the food!!!!
The following morning, after breakfast we were taken to one of the cave temples that Ipoh is famous for, where temples are literally created in huge limestone caves. There were grottoes with enormous statues of Buddha and huge elaborate paintings on the cave walls and very steep steps that led high into the cave and out to circle to the top of the hill/mountain. Roxanne made it about half way and (sensibly) stopped, but Simon, myself and Ronnie, one of the local teachers, continued to the top. It was quite an achievement and I have no idea how many steps there were, but it sure seemed like a million and with the heat and the humidity I was sure I was going to have to be buried at the top. Needless to add that we had sore legs the following day!
Our first workshop that evening was a blast. There were over 500 people in the crowd, all there to have fun and it showed in their attitude. The dance floor was pretty full for most of the night and we saw a lot of familiar dances mixed with some very different ones, including some choreographed to Chinese music. We were all surprised at how quickly they learned the 3 dances that we taught, especially in such crowded conditions, and our 'Showcase' demonstration (complete with a few mistakes) got a great response. I should add in our defence, that the three of us did a 9 minute routine which Simon, not living in Brisbane with Roxanne & I, had to learn when we got to Malaysia.
Of course after the social it was time to go out for dinner with the instructors yet again - I love this place!!!!!!
Taiping, about an hour's drive north of Ipoh, was the setting for our second workshop and we were greeted by a smaller quieter crowd, although they were just as friendly and enthusiastic to learn the dances that we taught. The evening was finished off with another wonderful array of food before our drive back to Ipoh.
Sunday morning and we packed for a 3 hour drive to Penang Island further north again and our next workshop/social the 'Tropical Wipe Out' hosted by the Twinkle Toes group. Penang is a very popular tourist destination with lots of beach resorts and a relaxed tropical feel despite the chaotic traffic. Again, it was a fun evening and we were made to feel very welcome by the friendly locals who really seem to enjoy their dancing and the social aspect of it. The tropical theme added to the atmosphere of night and we were presented with beautiful lei's made from local orchids.
On Monday after a day seeing some of the local sights, visiting temples, 2 beautiful and ornate old Chinese houses and another wonderful meal, this time at the Penang Swimming Club, we had our final and smaller workshop in Penang while lightning flashed over the ocean. We just made it back to the hotel as our first tropical storm hit.
It was great to have a few days to chill out, rest tired feet and play tourist after such a rigorous few days, but we certainly crammed a lot into them anyway - market shopping, eating, sightseeing, eating, a night in Cameron Highlands, tea plantations, eating, flower farms, massages - and I almost forget, eating ! - before we ended up in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon to be greeted by the Margaret Lee and the Fun Stompers our KL host group. Of course they took us out to dinner!
Friday was a free day to do more tourist stuff and shopping and of course a beautiful banquet meal in the evening with the local Fun Stompers. Deciding to go out for a drink to a club afterwards proved to be a poor choice because after a couple of cocktails and some dancing, Roxanne had to be helped out of the club with torn calf muscles!!! What some people will do for attention!!
Saturday afternoon's workshop and the social in the evening meant that Simon and I taught 3 dances each to cover for Roxanne who by that stage was on crutches - it also meant no showcase (just when we had it right), but Simon pulled something out of his memory bank and entertained the crowd while Margaret Mary demonstrated skirt work without her dance partner. The room was pretty full with over 300 dancers from many different places and as far away as Sarawak out in force, and again it was a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd to complete what was a very memorable trip. We saw even more dances done to 'local' music including one with Indian hand and head moves that was really fantastic. If I was still teaching classes I would have made sure I learned it to take home because it was amazing to watch. I was also interested to note quite a big ballroom influence in the line dance scene there, evident in the arm moves that I also noticed when I was in Singapore, and by watching the style of the dancers it is obvious that there are a quite a few ballroom dancers who also line dance.

The dances that were taught on the trip were;
Somebody Help Me & Michael's Two Step (both choreographed for this tour), & Bluegrass Waltz - Terry Hogan. Shimmy Shack - Shuttleworth/Ward, Shoop, Shoop - Simon Ward, Globetrotter - Smith/Ward, Starstruck - Roxanne Smith, Careless Whisper -Paul McAdam

Summing up, it was simply a great trip !!! - the people were incredibly friendly and all the local sponsor groups went far beyond what was necessary to make sure we had everything we wanted - I can't thank them enough for all their kindness. The country was quite beautiful, the history fascinating, the shopping incredible - and the food !!!!!.................... I sure hope I get invited back. ~Terry





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