Pair devastated after dance studio of 21 years goes up in flames: 'All our years of hard work are gone with the fire'
He lost his 'second home' after his dance studio goes up in flames, but vows to continue dancing, teaching
He thought he was dreaming when he heard frantic knocking and frenzied shouting outside his bedroom.
"Sir, studio, fire! Fire!" screamed his domestic helper, who had got word from her friend who lives two blocks from the dance studio that caught fire last Wednesday.
At first, Mr Allan Tan, owner of Dancesport De Allan located on the second storey at 70A Geylang Bahru, thought it was probably just a small fire as he rushed to the scene from his Bedok Reservoir home.
But videos sent to him by nearby residents while he was en route indicated otherwise.
"When I saw the videos, my mind just went blank," the veteran Latin dance instructor, who is in his early 60s, said in Mandarin.
When he arrived at about 7am, firefighters were at the scene battling the blaze and he could only watch helplessly from a distance.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force, which was alerted to the fire at about 6.35am, deployed about 40 firefighters and 11 emergency vehicles to fight the fire, which was put out in about an hour. Investigations are ongoing.
Mr Tan and his coaching partner Alice Teo were still in disbelief when they met The New Paper last Friday outside the charred studio, which he was renting from the Housing Board.
A place they have called their "second home" for the last 21 years is now reduced to ashes and "completely unrecognisable", said Mr Tan.
"For the last few days, I woke up all ready to go to work. Then I realised the studio is no more."
When asked what might have caused the fire at the 2,000 sq ft studio, Mr Tan said: "I have no idea. We left the studio at 9.30pm on Tuesday night and made sure that everything was switched off."
The duo have been teaching Latin dance for 27 years and have competed together for more than 16 years. At the peak of their careers, they were one of the top professional Latin dance pairs in Singapore and were also well-known in South-east Asia.
They also previously served in key positions in the Singapore Ballroom Dance Teachers' Association.
Choking up, Ms Teo, who is in her early 50s, said: "When I saw what was left of our studio after the fire, I broke down immediately.
"The trophies we have won from competitions, the photos with our students over the years - they are all gone overnight. All our years of hard work are gone with the fire."
The incident was another hammer blow for the couple, whose business had already been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Covid-19 made everything uncertain. We had to close, open, then close again. Our classes had to be downsized, and sometimes we could not even hold classes at all," lamented Ms Teo.
Over the years, they have coached more than 10,000 dancing enthusiasts from as young as four years old to as old as 89.
The pair were also the pioneer instructors at the Social and Ballroom Dance Club at the National University of Singapore in the 1990s.
Since the fire, the duo have received countless messages of encouragement from their students, both past and present, which have helped to lift their spirits.
"So many people have reached out to us. I see my students as my children and I feel very touched by their efforts to help us," said Ms Teo.
One of their former students, Ms Yap Wei Ni, 37, has rallied other students to start a fund-raising campaign for the beleaguered couple.
Ms Yap, a civil servant, told TNP: "Even though I was taught by them way back in 2005, we still keep in touch. In fact, I see them as my godparents, and I think many of their ex-students feel the same way.
"We want to help them bounce back."
Although they are under a cloud of uncertainty, Mr Tan and Ms Teo said they will not throw in the towel.
"We will try to pull through this very difficult period and continue to pursue our passion in dancing," said Ms Teo.
"We will continue to teach and organise competitions as we are one of the main championship organisers in the region. We just have to try."