Woman finds her feet again in belly dancing

She found it hard adapting to a new country, with no friends or family here except her Singaporean husband.

After Madam Susan Shu - who moved here from China in 2006 following her marriage - gave birth to her first child a year later, things got worse when she had post-natal depression.

The 36-year-old, who is now a Singapore citizen, said she felt hopeless.

"I was in a completely different environment. I could barely speak English and I didn't have many people to turn to for help," she told The New Paper in Mandarin.

Her post-natal depression hit her hard - she fainted several times in public because of extreme fatigue. She also had problems breastfeeding and suffered a persistent fever for two months.

Madam Shu said: "My breasts felt very heavy and extremely painful when I touched them. My entire body felt so uncomfortable and it affected my mood. I was in a very bad place."

Then one day, she stumbled upon a video about belly dancing online.

Though she always had an interest in the performing arts, her parents had discouraged her in the past.

Her father, Mr Shu Yiou Kun, 61, who was here on a short visit from China, said: "Years ago in China, the arts did not look like they had a promising future. As parents, we wanted her to have the brightest future she could have, so we sent her to study business instead."

She recalled with a laugh that her father would drag her out from dance classes she secretly attended when she was still schooling.

Her passion for dance eventually found its way back into her life and changed it for the better.

She took a two-month belly-dancing course in Beijing and returned to Singapore to teach the dance.

EMPOWERED

She said: "I felt so much more confident about my body and I wanted more people to feel empowered."

Since 2010, Madam Shu has been performing and teaching dance at several places, including Tampines North Community Club, where she leads classes twice a week. One of her former students was a 78-year-old woman.

Madam Shu has even started her own dance troupe, the Shakiya belly dance team, with her students. They took part in Asia Global Bellydance 2014, held at Far East Plaza, earlier this month.

The team consists of her and five women from different career backgrounds, such as office workers, housewives and an aesthetic nurse.

FRIENDSHIP

Madam Shu said: "Belly dancing saved my life because I've made so many meaningful friendships. We train hard together and celebrate our wins together. I treat them more like friends than students."

Under her guidance, Shakiya emerged champion in the professional group division while she won the professional solo division.

Asked to give advice to new mothers who may be in a similar situation, she said: "Pursue what you enjoy doing, despite it being a struggle at first.

"Get out and do what you love because if you stay at home and mope, you'll feel even more sick. I promise you it will all be worth it in the end."

Hubby: Inappropriate men? No bother to me

Her curvaceous body and alluring dance moves often get unwanted and inappropriate attention when she and her troupe perform at events.

Madam Susan Shu said: "I've had men trying to take inappropriate photos of us while we perform and some even tried to touch us." But her husband, Mr Bernard Koh, 47, laughs off these incidents.

The managing director of a corrosion protection company said: "It doesn't bother me. She's very talented and I think my wife is beautiful. I'm very proud of her."

He said he strongly believes in letting her do what makes her happy and supports her in whatever she does.

The couple met in China in 2002 when Mr Koh was handling clients in FoxConn, the company that makes Apple products.

SONS INTO DANCE

Their two sons, Zi Xuan and Zi Rui, aged seven and one respectively, have shown an interest in dancing.

As Madam Shu watched Zi Xuan dance "The Robot" and his hip-hop dance moves, she said: "I'm so thankful to dance and for my family's support. I've grown to love Singapore's culture. Everyone has been very kind to me."

melodyng@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 31, 2014.
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