Singapore's disco king found! Video of him at World Championships seen by over 10 million
Before Zouk and the nightlife at Clarke Quay, S'pore was a funky town with award-winning disco dancers. HARIZ BAHARUDIN speaks to two disco kings who ruled this boogie wonderland over 30 years ago
Kept away in Mr Raymond Chong's bedroom in his two-storey apartment is an outfit so precious, he keeps it in a vacuum-sealed bag.
It is a blue jumpsuit with a plunging neckline and adorned with sequins.
While the 54-year-old remisier probably wouldn't be caught dead wearing this flamboyant outfit in public now, it holds a special memory for him - it was what he wore when he was crowned Singapore's disco king over 30 years ago.
In 1980, when he was 18, Mr Chong beat more than 30 other dancers from all over the world to clinch second place in the EMI World Disco Dancing Championship.
"My friend who owned a boutique gave me the costume as a gift and told me I would look good dancing in it," says Mr Chong, who is married with four children.
"I'm quite surprised that after all these years, it still fits!"
Recently, a video of Mr Chong's fancy footwork made its rounds online. New York fashion magazine Hint shared a video of the 1980 competition on Nov 4. It now has more than six million views.
A video of the 1979 edition of the contest, which featured Singaporean Derek Joseph, also made its rounds on social media.
Mr Chong, who was surprised at the popularity of the video, laughs as he tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I guess disco is still stayin' alive!
"It has been such a long time, but winning that competition is still one of the best moments of my life."
Mr Chong represented Singapore on the international dance floor after he was crowned winner of the Singapore Disco Dancing Competition that year.
Framed medals from the competitions - a testament to his outstanding achievements - now hang on the wall of his room. But the champion reveals that at the time, he had only just picked up disco dancing.HAVING FUN: Mr Raymond Chong can still fit into the blue jumpsuit he wore to EMI World Disco Dancing Championship in 1980.
With a little over a year's experience dancing at disco clubs, Mr Chong did not expect to get into the finals, let alone represent Singapore.
He says he was influenced by disco movies such as Saturday Night Fever and Roller Boogie. But he also cultivated his own style by drawing inspiration from other dances, including breakdancing and salsa.
Mr Chong says: "I'm a natural-born dancer because I can hear the music, look at the style and come up with my own. That's why I did not need any formal training.
"I liked to dance and I wanted to dance as much as possible, so I tried all the styles I could. When I performed disco, I put together all the styles that I saw and made my own."
Cutting a humble figure, he adds: "I had no idea I could even win, there were so many good dancers."
Although he was certified as the best disco dancer here, Mr Chong knew his limited experience and skills were not enough. So, in the months before competing internationally, he worked on his sense of rhythm and perfected his dance moves.
KEPT ON DANCING
He says: "I knew I had to train harder and be more creative, so I kept on dancing to polish my skills."
His efforts paid off. On Dec 16, 1980, Mr Chong placed second in the world championship, which was held in London.
When asked if he was disappointed over missing out on first place, which went to the contestant from South Africa, Mr Chong laughs before saying that he was happy just to get into the finals. But he cheekily admits that it made him happy to perform better than the United States contestant.
He says: "Disco began from the US and was so popular there. It felt good to have performed better than them."
Mr Chong came back a hero and was instantly recognised in disco clubs such as Studio M and Copacabana, just like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
In fact, Mr Chong was so popular that he was booked for guest performances, and was even asked to judge dance competitions.
With a shy smile, he says: "People would come up to me, give me high-fives and say hi. Sometimes, they made way for me to dance disco."
Mr Chong's wife, Ms Shirley Cheo, 46, had no idea he was a disco legend when she first met him.
The pair met when Mr Chongwas helping to choreograph a dance routine for Ms Cheo during Chingay in 1987.
"I did not know he was a disco king - it was only after we started going out that I found out. It was quite surprising," says Ms Cheo.
Did the pair go dancing together?
Ms Cheo laughs, then says: "Not really, he is so much better than me."
Even as the disco trend started dying, Mr Chong never gave up the funk. As a hobby, he started picking up other styles of dances and teaching them, a practice he still keeps up today.
It seems that the dancing bug is hereditary - all of Mr Chong's four children, aged 11 to 19, are seasoned performers who enjoy dancing to Latin and K-pop music.
Eve, 17, says: "Disco is not really my thing, but it's great that daddy still enjoys dancing. I'm proud of him."
Mr Chong does not look like he will stop dancing any time soon.
During the interview, he did an impromptu performance for TNPS while decked out in the outfit he wore 30 years ago.
As he caught his breath, amid the applause from his proud children, he says: "Disco allows you to be creative, it's full of life and energy. It really was one of the best."