Sha Tin College dancer tells us how DanceSport taught her resilience and respect in the face of mean girls and stiff competition

Sha Tin College dancer tells us how DanceSport taught her resilience and respect in the face of mean girls and stiff competition

Talented and tenacious, 11-year-old Latin dancer Bernice Chan is dancing circles around the competition

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Bernice has been dancing for four years.
Photos: Courtesy of Bernice Chan

In a crowded dance floor, a group of young Latin dancers were showcasing their moves to a panel of judges. Among the sequin-covered figures was 11-year-old Bernice Chan, hoping to be noticed. But as she performed a step, she collided with another contestant. The girl glared at Bernice, before ripping the tag number from Bernice’s chest. Without her number, the judges wouldn’t be able to identify her and rate her performance.

Still in shock, Bernice carried on with her dance, but she didn’t earn any points for the round. It was an awful experience, but Bernice said she learned two valuable lessons that day: be resilient, and above all, be respectful.

“Although in the end that girl won the competition, what I most remember thinking is that I have to make sure I don’t end up like her,” she told Young Post.

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“That experience also taught me not to worry about the actions of others, and to keep on going, no matter what happens.”

Competing taught Bernice the show does, and will, go on.
Photo: Courtesy of Bernice Chan

The Year Seven student from Sha Tin College first started dancing at the age of seven, after being inspired by a close friend. Eager to make a good impression in her first class, she was quick to pick up the dance steps, much to the approval of her teachers; they could see she was a star in the making.

The dancer then got her first taste of success in October when she competed at the Hong Kong DanceSport Open 2018, winning four solo dance medals in the 10-11 age group.

While receiving awards is a validation of her efforts, Bernice wants to make sure she’s always improving. She said she hopes to compete in more contests which use ranking systems, so she can become the top female dancer of her age group.

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“I don’t want to win medals only, I want to know how the judges rank me and get the highest score possible,” she said.

In addition to her regular dance practice, Bernice hones her skills by taking part in other types of sport, including gymnastics, rope-skipping and swimming. She said these activities help her to improve her flexibility and build muscle, so that she can do better splits and stronger jumps.

Practising five hours a week is physically demanding for her, but it’s nowhere near as challenging as having to cut back on all her favourite snacks. As much as she loves them, Bernice knows that sugary foods are bad for athletes, because they cause blood sugar levels to spike, then drop again, leading to drowsiness.

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“Candies, chocolate and ice cream make me feel too energetic, which will mess up the dance.”

But a treat here and there can be good motivation, so Bernice and her mother Cathie Chung came up with a star chart: Bernice can earn stars by completing tasks, such as washing the dishes or doing her homework. When she has a certain number of stars, she can trade them for a treat.

The chart is just one of the many ways in which Chung is supporting her daughter’s dancing career. Before competitions, she spends up to three hours doing Bernice’s hair and make-up to perfection. She also sewed by hand beads and jewels onto one f Bernice’s dresses – now easily one of her favourites – to help her stand out from the crowd.

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Bernice is still currently a solo dancer, but as most international tournaments only have couples categories, she needs to start searching for a partner – no easy task, given the limited number of male dancers of a similar age. For a local upcoming competition this month, she will pair with another girl to get a taste of dancing as a duo.

“In five years’ time, I think I will be representing Hong Kong, but to do that I must find a boy to partner with. Having a girl partner for the competition in December is a good place to start, so I can get used to dancing as a couple.”

Partner or not, Bernice has never been one to sit on the sidelines. You can always find her in the middle of the dance floor, where she belongs

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