7-year-old S'porean dances her way to world stage, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

7-year-old S'porean dances her way to world stage

While many children at the age of five learn to tie their own shoelaces, Penelope Cai put on her dancing shoes and learnt the moves of the highly expressive Latin dance.

Fiery and flashy, the Latin dance is generally fast-paced and showcases physically demanding hip action and rhythmic expressions.

But it did not stop Penelope from learning the dance and becoming the first Singaporean under eight years old to reach the finals of The Open Worlds, which was held in Blackpool, England, in early-May this year.

Penelope was ranked fifth in three categories: Under 8 Solo – Cha Jive, Under 8 Solo Challenge – Cha-Cha-Cha and Under 10 Solo 2 Dance Cha-Rumba.

But dancing in front of an audience did not come easy for Penelope, her father Cai Jianxiang told Stomp.

According to the 37-year-old businessman, his daughter used to get stage fright and refused to compete.

But overcome her fear of performing she did and Penelope, who started taking Latin ballroom dance lessons about two years ago, bagged gold in December 2022.

Motivated by her win in January 2024, Penelope decided to get onto a bigger stage.

"Having to battle jet lag, waking up at 4am UK time for make-up, reaching the ballroom at 7am for warm-up and having to dance many heats and rounds from about 8am to 2pm was no easy feat for a young child," said Mr Cai.

"The level of stamina and endurance required is high, even for an adult."

Penelope participated in five categories and reaching the finals in three of them surpassed her expectations.

"I hope her story can inspire others," said Mr Cai.

Chiang Loong and his dance partner Mathilda Cook are two other young Latin dancers from Singapore.

The 11-year-olds were champions in the Latin Juvenile 12 A and 12 B at 10th TDA DanceSport Championships 2022.