Teenage dance coach Cherry Yeo Xiao Wei has put Malaysia on the world map after clinching four medals at the Mallorca Dance Festival (MDF) in Santa Ponsa, Majorca, Spain recently.
The competition, held from Nov 10-12, witnessed the 18-year-old's triumph in three solo female Latin disciplines and a bronze in the adult solo female Latin discipline.
"I never expected to win four medals, especially in such competitive categories. This marked my inaugural solo participation in an international competition. Winning these medals comes as a total surprise as I had set out merely to gauge the standard of other participants. The feeling of accomplishment is truly overwhelming and a surreal experience. I'm truly happy and grateful for the new opportunities that have come my way," said Yeo during a phone interview from Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Yeo and nine other dancers from different dance schools in the country took part in the festival. They arrived back in Kuala Lumpur last week after the competition.
Over 100 dancers from 10 countries, including Austria, France, Croatia, Bulgaria and Azerbaijan participated in the second edition of the competition, organised by Majorca-based dance academy Centre De Ball Mallorca. Some of the standard modalities presented in the championships were English waltz, European tango and Viennese waltz. Participants were divided into different age ranges, from children to senior citizens.
Yeo said she faced challenges that tested her technical prowess in the competition.
"It was difficult to maintain my stamina throughout the three-day competition. Every routine demanded precision and emotion. Striking the right balance was difficult to ensure I delivered both technically and emotionally in every performance. I also felt intimidated especially surrounded by talented participants from different parts of the world. Thankfully I wasn't nervous when I graced the dance floor," said Yeo, currently on a gap year from her studies.
Commencing her dance journey at the age of six, Yeo, the youngest of three siblings, currently works as a part-time coach at MY Dancesport Academy (MDA) in PJ. Her advantage over her competitors, she believes, lies in a combination of rigorous training, a profound connection with music, and the ability to convey emotions through her movements.
"I believe my choreography stood out due to its distinctive elements. I incorporated aspects that highlighted my flexibility, a quality not as prevalent among other participants. Drawing from my background in rhythmic gymnastics, I infused creative movements that showcased not only my flexibility but also my coordination, strength and endurance.
"As a contemporary dancer, I integrated movements from various genres, including jazz, modern and ballet, adding a unique flair to my performances," said Yeo, who trained under MDA founders and coaches Chua Zjen Fong and Evon Chong.
Besides MDF, she has participated in a few dance competitions in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Considering herself a timid person, Yeo encourages those lacking in confidence to embrace dance as a form of self-expression.
"While my everyday demeanour may be perceived as reserved, dance has become a transformative journey, enabling me to unveil diverse facets of myself. Beyond mere movement, this art form provides the canvas to showcase various personalities, fostering confidence and serving as a profound journey of self-discovery and empowerment."
For those aspiring to follow in her graceful footsteps, Yeo emphasises the importance of passion in the pursuit of dance.
"Passion is key. Find joy in every practice session, and don't be afraid to express yourself through dance. It's a journey of self-discovery and growth." said Yeo, who will be participating in the Dancesport Hong Kong Open 2023 (Latin dance) in Hong Kong next month.