She plays instruments, she sings and she dances. Emily Ma is the total package when it comes to her passion. Travelling around the world and learning different styles of dance as well as singing at various venues across the globe, Emily Ma is now a Zumba teacher with the Whole Person Education Office (WPEO), where she teaches two classes per week. She has a lot to offer her students as she encourages them to step outside the box and build their self-confidence.

This story begins from the young age of five when Emily would observe her mother, who took part in traditional Chinese dancing while living in Vancouver, Canada. However, it was at school where she took notice of music classes, when she discovered she enjoyed singing and dancing much more than studying in a classroom.

At 13 years old she really discovered her passion for dance when she joined the cheerleading team and became the leader for two years. During this period, Emily discovered contemporary dance and that’s where her real adventure began. Every aspect from the movement, the music, and the general awe around it is what hooked Emily to this style of dance.

She first saw an Australian couple performing Zouk at the Hong Kong Salsa Festival, which led Emily to believe it was originally from Australia. This led to Emily to taking a trip to Sydney, Australia where she stayed at her teacher’s house to learn Zouk. She explained to her Zouk teacher that she had fallen in love with Zouk as it is so close to contemporary dance. Every day for five to six hours, Emily studied the dance, how to teach the dance and how to break it down to gain a better understanding.

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She then took herself to the United Kingdom where she taught Zumba and Zouk at Pineapple Dance Studio in London. It was only when Emily was in London did she realize that Zouk was actually from Brazil and not Australia. After meeting some dancers from around the world in London, she was invited to be part of a dance exchange that led to her spending time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She spoke with a Zouk dance specialist from Brazil and asked if she could go to his school, and in return she would teach and assist for three years.

Emily describes Zouk as being a combination of contemporary dance and Lambada, which has African and Latino roots. She explains that the dance was put together by two lovers, one who was a contemporary dancer and the other who does Lambada. The Zouk that Emily teaches is the Brazilian style which is different from the one performed in Africa.

Emily has won many competitions including championships for bachata and salsa dancing as well as a novelty “Jack and Jill” Zouk competition, which involves your dance partner being selected at random. She has won other competitions too with her old French partner. The preparation schedule for the competition was very tough on both of them as they trained for four days a week and then exercised at the gym the other three days, and they were invited to several countries to perform their dance routine.

In 2012, Emily wanted to return to Hong Kong with the vision of bringing Zouk to Asia and its people. She feels that the people in Asia deserve to know this types of dance, like when she teaches Zumba at UIC, she feels the students deserve to have more knowledge about different dances and enjoy them. Emily remarks that China is changing and more people are becoming more open to accepting Zouk, with there already being a Zouk scene across China, especially in the major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.


Once settled back, Emily first began working with one of the main organisers of the Salsa scene in Hong Kong to help bring Zouk to Hong Kong. He gave her the platform and marketing she needed to start. In addition, Emily has a strong reputation in the dance scene as it is well know that she has travelled to other places worldwide to learn different dance styles from professionals.

Emily also started her own non-profit organization called Exotica Dance HK, which is part of her passion where she has a platform to share information she has learnt with other dance instructors. In addition, she manages a group of professional dancers that she has trained herself and hires out to perform at various venues and events. Members of Exotica HK are often invited to festivals where they will hold workshops as well as participate.

Partnering up with a Latino song-writer, Emily began to write her own music. She has had four original songs on the charts, which she has sung at different events to show how diverse her music background is. She has also designed her own dancing shoes.

Emily explains that she gets excited by the prospect of a challenge especially with singing, as she can vary from choir to rap. Her favourite pop idol was Michael Jackson but now it is Bruno Mars, because she loves that he is also a triple threat who can play instruments, sing and dance. In school she learnt how to play the piano and drums as well as learning to sing, so she also sings with her bands around different venues. Her voice was also used for a television commercial.

At UIC, Emily would like to see her students build their self-confidence and step out of their comfort zone, by finding a new passion in dance, not limited by traditions. Her students are free to experiment with different styles in her class, and she is open to conversations with them. She thinks being open with her students is very important for an educator.


Emily believes that UIC hosting a salsa fiesta last semester helped to expand interest in her classes this semester. Emily put together the big dance performance for the new campus inauguration that was held on 9 December 2017, which may have increased interest in her classes as well.

Her current classes at UIC are more focused on fitness using Zumba as it is a cardio exercise that uses dance as the base. Emily says her students at UIC have great potential and she would like to encourage more students to join because anyone can do it, regardless of height and body type. Her classes are all about sweat and happiness because it is a fun class that is like a party with music blasting. Zouk is her favourite form of dance as it has no boundary, which she says, is a good way to describe her.

Reporter/Photographer: Samuel Burgess
Editors: Deen He, Samantha Burns
(with thanks to the ELC from MPRO)


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