Young ballroom dancers Melissa Fung and Shawn Shi rehearse for this weekend’s Canadian Closed Championships event, held in Richmond. (PHOTO: Gord Goble)

TINY DANCERS: Ballroom-style moves for young pair at big weekend event in Richmond

Canadian Closed Championships draws Canada’s top ballroom dancers to hotel in Richmond

SURREY — The “modern” ballroom dance has been with us for about a hundred years, or about 93 years longer than South Surrey’s Shawn Shi.

Why is that important? Because, despite the rather scandalous age discrepancy, the two were seemingly made for each other.

It all started, says the Grade 3 student of Tsawwassen’s Southpointe Academy, when he was so very much younger.

“I decided I liked dancing when I was five,” said Shawn, nattily attired in his Fred Astaire-esque white shirt, black slacks and polished black shoes.

He’d just finished an hour’s training at Richmond’s Crystal Ballroom dance studio, something he now does twice a week all year ‘round. But more on that in a bit.

“My sister was playing a Chinese instrument called the guzheng (essentially a Chinese zither). She was playing a song that I really liked, and I started to dance. I made up some moves,” Shawn noted.

And so it began. Shawn kept right on dancing and a year later, at the ripe old age of six, his big break would come. It was Multicultural Night at Southpointe, and Shawn and pal Melissa Fung signed up. They’d ultimately do a cha-cha and a traditional Chinese dance, and together they wowed the crowd.

Other events would follow – other multicultural nights, Surrey Festival of Dance, a show at what Shawn recollects was a “church… somewhere in Surrey,” and Shawn and Melissa’s splashiest appearance yet, and first true competition, at the prestigious 2016 Snowball Classic at Vancouver’s Hyatt Regency.

The twosome have become quite the sensation as they’ve worked their way into competitive dance, aided in no small part by Melissa’s dad, Tony, who just happens to be a world-class dancer himself and one heck of an instructor, too; he signed on officially as teacher two months ago.

On Tuesday in Richmond, Fung put the pair through their paces like he always does. There’s no room for errors in the world of competitive ballroom dancing, and no detail is too insignificant.

“They (the judges) don’t give you a chance,” he said. “You make a mistake, you’re not allowed to try again. You don’t place well, and you’re out. The judges only look at you for five seconds, and that five seconds has to be perfect.”

Fung explained how the two rounds work and detailed the complexities involved. Finger placement, facial expression, proper arm extensions – the list goes on and on, and just listening to it is exhausting.

Yet in between the repetition, the perspiration, the non-stop pursuit of perfection and the copious water breaks, it’s easy to see the three get along splendidly. Smiles and laughter abound.

And now, this weekend, it’s time for another high-end test. It’s called the Canadian Closed Championships, and it’s being held this Friday and Saturday (April 14 and 15) at Richmond’s Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel. It’ll bring together entrants from across the country, including our pair of eight-year-olds.

Considering Shawn and Melissa will compete in an age group that, much like Spinal Tap’s guitar amplifiers, goes all the way to 11, they clearly have their work cut out for them.

But you get the sense that there’s no place they’d rather be. Melissa, all graceful, absolutely loves the spotlight, and Shawn, he’s obviously in his element.

“I want to stick with ballroom dancing,” Shawn said. “I don’t want to do jazz or hip-hop, cuz I like to listen to calm music. I don’t really like rock.

“When I have free time, when I hear music, I just want to dance.”


On Friday and Saturday (April 14-15), the 61st Annual Canadian Closed Championships draws Canada’s top ballroom dancers to the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond.

The event features five Latin dances, including the Rumba, Cha Cha, Jive, Samba, and Paso Doble, and five Standard dances, including the Tango, Quickstep, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz and Slow Waltz. More than 300 dancers of all levels will participate in two-day competition, hosted by DanceSport BC, a volunteer-run non-profit society.

Tickets begin at $30 for daytime sessions, and evening performances start at $50. For details, visit or call 604-263-9928.

Just Posted

Totems to battle Wildcats for Surrey RCMP Basketball championship

Match set for 7:45 p.m. at Enver Creek Secondary

‘Nothing comes from exclusion,’ says Surrey man who fought for LGBT rights in Albania

Ejron Tela moved to Surrey after leading Albanian movement to get equal rights for LGBT community

Flavourful journey through the city

BIA’s Taste White Rock event returns

WIND WARNING: Metro Vancouver expecting 100 km/h gusts Saturday night

Environment Canada issues warns of possibly dangerous conditions

Civic cannabis plan gets the attention of White Rock business groups

Chamber to poll members, BIA would “absolutely support” businesses looking to open dispensaries

VIDEO: Surrey reviewing Clayton crosswalk after pedestrian hit

The city says investigation in response to safety concerns from local resident

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

VIDEO: Remember the Voyageurs at Fort Langley

Two-day historical festival underway

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

B.C. woman who forged husband’s will gets house arrest

Princeton Judge says Odelle Simmons did not benefit from her crime

Snow warning in effect for the Coquihalla

A snowfall warning is in effect from Hope to Merritt as slush and snow is expected on highways this weekend

Vancouver hoping free public Wi-Fi expansion will drive tourism dollars

Mayor Gregor Robertson says expansion bolsters its “leading Smart City” status

Women’s movement has come a long way since march on Washington: Activists

Vancouver one of several cities hosting event on anniversary of historic Women’s March on Washington

Most Read