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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Singles hope to dance their way to life partners

Dance classes are just one of the ideas floated by new dating agencies.
The Straits Times - September 24, 2012
By: Melissa Lin
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Singles hope to dance their way to life partners Dance instructors who conduct two-hour-long dating workshops for A Dance Date practising their moves. -- PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHOO YANQING

TWICE a week at a studio in Bukit Merah, aspiring dancers who step on one another's toes not only risk hurting their pride, but their hearts as well.

The Actfa School of Dance and Performing Arts is where dating agency A Dance Date holds special two-hour-long workshops for hopeful singles.

The agency's founder and Actfa's head of dance, Ms Choo Yanqing, 28, said she ventured into the dating industry in 2010 after noticing that a majority of her students were single and meeting up after dance classes. "I know of about 100 couples who got together, even without prodding."

Her agency is one of five new dating agencies recently accredited by the Social Development Network (SDN) under the SDNTrust Mark. Accredited agencies must screen the marital status of their clients against marriage records, among other requirements.

Accreditation is voluntary, and valid for two years. After that, it is up to the agency to decide if it wants to be reassessed. Currently, there are 11 accredited agencies.

With the privatisation of the industry since 2006, agencies with different ideas have sprung up. Singles can sign up for hip-hop classes, create a movie date online, or even go on overseas trips.

Another newly accredited agency is One Plus One, run by Mr Jerald Lim, 37, a former librarian.

The sole proprietor organises events such as $10 dinners to restaurants and $55 day trips to Malacca. Mr Lim, who used to attend SDN's events for singles, decided to play matchmaker himself in 2003 because, he "understands what singles want".

"I discourage people from sleeping on the bus to Malaysia by making them rotate seats, like speed dating on the bus," said Mr Lim, who is single.

These new agencies come at a time when people are more open to getting professional help to find love, said Ms Violet Lim, founder of Lunch Actually, one of the most well-known dating services in Singapore.

She started the agency with her husband in 2004, and it has since grown to have about 4,000 members. Its online portal, Eteract, has about 14,000 members.

Ms Lim said that even with all the different dating agencies, finding love can be tricky."People have crossed the barrier of using dating services, but not the barrier of telling others they use it."

This, however, is an attitude that is changing over time, said Ms Joan Ong, co-founder of dating agency Champagne JSG."We do notice that more and more singles who come to us are referred by their friends. This shows that singles are starting to share their engagement of dating services among their friends, especially when they feel comfortable with the service and find it helpful."

With government figures showing that more people are staying single and marrying later, agencies said they are paying more attention to individuals' needs in the hope of reversing the trend.

Most singles simply want more opportunities to meet different types of people in a fun and relaxed environment, said Ms Ong.

This is true for Ms Trixie Yap, who is single. She said she would go for social gatherings like those organised by One Plus One.

The 23-year-old, who works for a trade publication, said: "It gives me more space to mingle and meet people without getting stressed about speaking to just one person throughout the date."

What it takes to be accredited

  • Pay a $550 application fee and other assessment fees which are non-refundable.
  • Complete and pass a course on establishing and managing a dating business, co-developed by SDN and Singapore Workforce Development Agency.
  • Meet eligibility requirements, such as being legally registered with the Government.
  • Interviewed by SDN with an on-site visit to the agency. Checks include ensuring clients' information is kept private.
  • Have clear refund policies. However, the time frame for refunds can be set by the agencies.
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