Partners in dance

by | June 4, 2015

Time hasn’t changed them much as these two friends continue dancing together from the day they first met in 1988.

Eleanor Yap

Friends in dance: Irene Ng and Tham Siew Kong.

Irene Ng, 71, and Tham Siew Kong, 76, have been partners for over 20 years, not marriage partners but dancing partners. Their union has survived with time starting from the faithful day when Irene started to learn Latin dancing in a group setting in a studio in 1988 and it was the place where they first met. It was a casual get-together, explained Irene, as they needed partners to dance.

But in 1993, she decided to switch to do ballroom dancing, saying, “I like the rhythm and the dance suits my body frame.” The instructor at the studio brought up Siew Kong’s name and suggested the two became partners, which both were game.

At the age of 52, Irene continued her passion for the dance but at another studio, Shawn & Gladys Danceworld, and no surprise, Siew Kong stayed by her side. While at the studio, she was asked to consider becoming an instructor, which she ended up doing. And that didn’t stop both of them from still being friends and dancing together.

Irene shared that when Siew Kong taught her the different dances, she was able to quickly pick them up.

The two have been inseparable, having performed at the Istana for past presidents including Ong Teng Cheong and Yusof bin Ishak. She continues to teach social dancing (which includes other dances besides ballroom dance) even today at Geylang West CC four times a week, and Siew Kong is happy to be around to be her partner.


Back in their heyday

Irene shared that in their heyday, he used to have a motorcycle where together they would go out dancing and partying in Johor or wherever. Said the mother of three and grandmother of nine, “Now old so he cannot walk so fast and also cannot use the motorcycle as his children say he can’t.”

The more talkative of the two, she further revealed that a few times at parties, there were many girls who wanted to dance with him and she ended up having to sit down the whole time as she was unable to do the dance. After a while, she got “angry” and decided to dance with other people. Siew Kong revealed that that made him unhappy so once he called her at midnight and they talked for two hours. He also made her a promise that he would not dance with other girls again, and he would teach her the dances she didn’t know.

Irene said, “He is very knowledgeable of the different dances. When he teaches me, I am quick to pick them up!” She also shared that he knows her well enough and knows how to guide her in the dances.


Irene admitted that the two sometimes argued but they still managed to stay together.

Arguments don’t sour a relationship

Reminiscent of any relationship, there were also arguments. Irene said that one time they had such a heated argument that she told him to go find another dance partner. “However, later, he would call about going to practice the next day and I had cooled down by then so I said ok,” she said.

The father of two and grandfather of one added, “I don’t hold grudges if she scolds me.” With such a close relationship the two have, doesn’t that create rifts with his spouse? Siew Kong said steadfastly that his wife is not jealous, and even though his wife has no interest in dance, she and Irene are friends.

So if it ever came to a point when they won’t be able to dance together, what would happen? Irene smiled, “I will go sing. I will teach him singing.” Partners in dance and friends for life.



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