Belly dancing her way to the top
BARELY two months after her second childbirth, Susan Shu, instructor and owner of belly dance school Shakiya, threw herself full-time into preparations for a regional competition.
The 36-year-old, who competed in two professional solo categories in the Asia Global Bellydance Competition held on July 4 and 5, also trained a group for the professional group category.
For Ms Shu, belly dancing served as a form of therapy that helped her battle depression after her pregnancy.
She first took up belly dancing after the birth of her first child in 2008 as she felt "cooped up and distant from the world". Then, she was suffering from post-natal depression and was frequently ill during her confinement.
After chancing upon a professional belly dancing class in Beijing on the Internet, she became determined to learn the art and flew there to train for three months. She came back stronger, happier and in better health.
Her husband and an aunt helped take care of her older son then.
In 2010, Ms Shu started teaching at Tampines North Community Centre. She founded Shakiya in 2012.
"Belly dancing allowed me to relieve the stress from all my troubles because of the fast and strong movements," Ms Shu said in Mandarin.
The cathartic effect could be due to the vigorous nature of the Argentinian style of belly dancing that Shakiya practises. Involving energetic hip thrusts and head swings that sent her hair flying through the air, it is more powerful than the gentler Egyptian style of belly dancing.
Despite her determination, training while caring for her newborn son proved challenging.
"I even wanted to give up competing as I did not sleep the night before the competition, but I wanted to set a good example for my students, so I persevered," the instructor recounted.
Her efforts came to fruition as she emerged champion in the Singapore Professional Solo (traditional). She was also first runner-up in the Asia Solo (traditional and fusion) category, beating competitors from Japan, China and Vietnam.
The group that she painstakingly trained swivelled their hips to first place in the Singapore Professional Group Category.
One of the group members, Vivian Ma, 30, who works as an executive administrator, said that belly dancing has helped her gain confidence since she started learning it two years ago.
"Even though I was shy at first, I got more confident as I mastered the skills. My flexibility has also improved," she added.