Can Two Former Ballroom Dance Champions Slay the Dragons' Two Left Feet?
Tune in to CBC Television when Burlington’s Robert Tang & Beverley Cayton-Tang Enter the Dragons' Den
danceScape's Robert Tang & Beverley Cayton-Tang appear on CBC Television's "Dragons' Den".
Robert Tang and Beverley Cayton-Tang are no strangers to taking risks.
Long before “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance” made dancing a national viewing past time, Robert and Beverley were making their mark as 3-time Canadian and 2-time North American Amateur Standard Ballroom Champions. But their journey wasn’t always as glamorous as the crystal-adorned gowns that Beverley wore, nor as fun as what they expected when they went out on the dance floor to defend their titles.
Remarked Beverley, “When we first decided to compete together, I was already the Provincial Champion, and ranked third in Canada with my former partner. My coach had suggested Robert, whom she felt had a lot of potential. The challenge was that he had been taking lessons for only a very short time and had not yet competed at a Championship level. It would be like starting all over again.”
For Robert, there was the added pressure of having to play catch up, and uncertainty as to how a traditional judging community would react to a “mixed-race” dance team. “This was during the mid to late 1990s. Of course, it did help that I had a secret crush on Beverley,” he added, “so this motivated me to work harder to not disappoint her, nor our coach.”
Originally from Malaysia, Robert, his sister and parents immigrated to Canada during the late 1960s to escape from the political issues in their country at the time. Robert’s father was a Ballroom Champion in his youth, and decided to revisit his passion by taking lessons in Waterdown, Ontario. “When my parents decided to compete for the first time together at a competition in Kitchener, my sister and I decided to go to the event and cheer them on. It was there that I was introduced to Beverley and you could say, quickly became her ‘secret admirer’,” stated Robert.
For someone who has had to battle chronic shyness and dyslexia throughout his youth and adult life, Robert discovered a way to cope with those challenges through competitive Ballroom Dancing. “When my voice wouldn’t naturally say what my brain wanted, dancing was ideal for me because I could communicate non-verbally through facial expression and body movement. And the skill of leading a partner around the floor made it similar to a game of chess, so it provided a fun way to challenge my mind,” laughed Robert.
Their hard work and risk-taking started to pay off, and ultimately resulted in their becoming Canadian and North American title holders. They represented Canada at five World Championships, competing in Denmark, Holland, Austria, Germany, and Japan.
Although their Amateur Sports Association provided bursaries as the official Canadian representatives, they still needed “day jobs” to support their dance addiction. Robert was a Marketing-Communications Manager for a manufacturing software company based in Boston, while Beverley was a Manager of Interlibrary Loans for the Southern Ontario Library Service based in Toronto.
In 2001, with the financial support of an Angel Investor from Seattle, they quit their jobs and began a new chapter of their lives as entrepreneurs. The Tangs launched www.dancescape.TV where people could view dance videos on the Internet (long before YouTube), and www.dancescape.com, a source of world-wide news and event information and online shopping for dance supplies and services. In the evenings, the Tangs coached competitive dance couples at their downtown Burlington location.
In 2005, they launched their first “For Absolute Beginners Only” Ballroom Dancing group workshop program. The program quickly became a success, and was followed later by other programs such as “For Absolute Beginners Only” Club Salsa/Swing, and danceTONE, a “Trim and Tone” fitness program which incorporates Salsa, Merengue, Cha Cha, Rumba, and other dance steps.
Earlier this year, CBC Television heard about the Tangs and decided to profile them on their new show, “Fortune Hunters”, which focuses on entrepreneurs who are in unique industries or are cashing in on new trends. Their episode can still be viewed online at www.cbc.ca/news/fortunehunters.
When the producers heard that the Tangs were seeking to expand their company nationally and needed investment growth funding to do this, they invited them to try out for “Dragons’ Den” and pitch their company to a panel of tough Canadian business moguls.
Stated Robert, “This was among the biggest challenges that we’ve taken to date – to put ourselves on the line, in front of a panel of ‘Dragons’ on national television. At times we had to draw upon our past competition experience to face their wrath. But we felt that no matter what happened, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to tell our story to the investment community and national media.”
The exciting news is that their 2-disc instructional DVD, “For Absolute Beginners Ballroom Dancing” will be sold in Canada on www.shopdragonsden.com, with a portion of proceeds going to breast cancer support services.
And in January, the Tangs will be launching a Teacher Training program that will enable those who are passionate about dance to join the danceScape team and teach others how to gain confidence, be fit, and have fun through their dance learning and party programs.
Will Robert and Beverley slay the Dragons' Two Left feet, or will they be scorched by the fire? Tune in to CBC Television (segment originally aired November 2008, but recently aired again in July 2012).