Goh Soo Khim



Goh Soo Khim (b. 1944, Singapore–) is a ballerina, choreographer and dance educator. She was one of the co-founders of the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), and has been the director and principal of the Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) since 1971.1 Goh has played a major role in the development and professionalisation of dance in Singapore and is credited with nurturing a number of successful dancers.2

Early life
Goh was born into a family of 10 children.3 She was a student at Nanyang Primary and Nanyang Girls’ High School and performed regularly in school concerts.4

At the age of five, Goh began her ballet training at the Singapore Ballet Academy (SBA) under her sister Goh Soo Nee and other academy founding directors, including Frances Poh and Vernon Martinus.5 Goh’s sister Soo Nee and brothers Choo Chiat and Choo San also went on to have successful careers in dance.6

Education and career
In 1964, Goh became the first Asian to be accepted by audition into the prestigious Australian Ballet School in Melbourne, which at the time admitted only 20 students for each intake. After two years of training, she graduated as the top student of her cohort and returned to teach at the SBA. Besides teaching, she also performed as a soloist and principal dancer. After her sister Soo Nee moved to Canada in 1971, Goh took over the reins as the director and principal of the academy.7

In 1977, Goh was selected to represent Singapore at the second ASEAN Radio and Television Cultural Exchange Programme.8 She went on to choreograph several performances, such as Temple Tone Poem (1978), that combined Western ballet techniques with Chinese dance and contemporary movements. With music by local violinist and composer Kam Kee Yong, Temple Tone Poem received enthusiastic audience responses when it was performed in Kuala Lumpur and Genting as part of the Malaysia Mustika Festival held in 1981.9

In 1984, Goh was appointed by the Ministry of Culture as co-artistic director of the Ballet Group of the National Dance Company together with choreographer Anthony Then. The following year, Goh was commissioned by the Fifth ASEAN Festival of Performing Arts to create Environmental Phases (1985). The piece examined the changing urban landscape by combining Western ballet with Asian themes and rhythms.10

Goh and Then formed the SDT in 1988 with the aim of professionalising dance in Singapore. Together with seven dancers, the group practised at the SBA dance studio on Lloyd Road.11 The SDT’s first production, Crossing Borders (1988), premiered at the Singapore Festival of Arts.12 That same year, the SDT also got its first arts patron, then deputy prime minister Ong Teng Cheong, who would later become Singapore’s first elected president.13

The SDT’s early years saw it stage classical and contemporary works by regional choreographers. Goh’s first choreographic work for the SDT was German composer Johannes Brahms’s Sentiments, which was performed during the SDT’s second season.14


In 1990, to celebrate Singapore’s 25th year of independence, Goh restaged Environmental Phases.15

Over the years, the much-lauded SDT has gained a reputation for staging eclectic works that range from the neoclassical to the avant-garde. The dance company has six performance seasons a year and tours internationally. Famous dancers trained by Goh at the SDT include Jamaludin Jalil, Kuik Swee Boon, Jeffrey Tan and Mohamed Noor Sarman.16

In 1997, Goh co-authored a book with Janek Schergen about her late brother entitled Goh Choo San: Master Craftsman in Dance. Choo San had been an internationally acclaimed associate artistic director at the Washington Ballet.17


Dance education and outreach have always been important for Goh. While at the SDT, she spearheaded numerous programmes to bring dance to the public. The most successful of these is the ongoing Ballet Under The Stars series, which involves staging outdoor dance performances at Fort Canning Park.18 Goh has also judged numerous ballet competitions regionally. In 2003, Goh became the first Asian to sit on the international jury for the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse ballet competition held in Moscow.19


After 20 years at the helm of the SDT, Goh stepped down from her post as artistic director in 2008 and was succeeded by Janek Schergen.20 In 2009, the SDT’s main rehearsal studio at Fort Canning was named the Goh Soo Khim Founder's Studio in her honour.21

Awards
In 1981, Goh received the Cultural Medallion for dance.22 She was also bestowed the Public Service Medal in 1989 for her contributions to the local dance scene,23 and was named Her World magazine’s Woman of the Year in 2008.24

Family
Goh is married to property developer Daniel Teo and they have three daughters, Rachel, Dana and Claire, and one son, Danton.25

Goh’s elder sister Soo Nee once headed the dance department of the Vancouver Music Academy, while her brother Choo Chiat founded the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver, Canada. Her youngest brother Goh Choo San was one of Singapore’s most successful dancers and resident choreographer for the Washington Ballet before his death in 1987.26 Goh’s niece, Goh Chan Hon, was the principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.27



Author

Kaylene Tan



References
1. Six artistes to get cultural awards at Istana. (1981, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Leong, C. (1989, August 16). Lifetimes of music and dance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Choreographer, ballet master 30 years later. (1982, January 5). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Love blossomed in Australia. (2009, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998). Touches: 10 years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Author, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
6. Lam, D. (1982, March 8). Mother of ballet stars. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Ballerina Soo Khim leaves for Australia. (1964, May 9). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Six artistes to get cultural awards at Istana. (1981, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, M. (1982, March 31). Singapore ballerina Goh Soo Khim. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. National Arts Council. (2012). Goh Soo Khim. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/docs/news/annexes-h-artchaos.doc
9. Lim, M. (1982, March 31). Singapore ballerina Goh Soo Khim. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. De Souza, J. (1985, October 28). Dance phenomenon. The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Tan, S. E. (1998, September 14). Growing by leaps and bounds. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tsang, S. (1998, September 21). Decade of cheers and tears. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, T. (2008, July 24). Hanging it up. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998). Touches: 10 years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Author, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
14. Holmberg, J. (1988, October 29). A new season for Dance Theatre. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998). Touches: 10 years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Author, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
16. Tan, T. (2008, July 24). Hanging it up. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Seah, L. (1997, September 27). A jump back in time to honour Goh Choo San. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1998). Touches: 10 years of the Singapore Dance Theatre. Singapore: Author, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 792.8095957 TOU)
19. Ong, S. F. (2003, April 28). SDT’s Goh to judge ballet world’s Oscars. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Tan, T. (2008, September 25). Think local, dance global. The Straits Times, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Singapore Dance Theatre. (1988, March 3). Singapore Dance Theatre’s New Home at Bugis+ Mall [Press release]. Retrieved from Singapore Dance Theatre website: http://www.singaporedancetheatre.com/media/press_releases/files/pdf_release/2013/Singapore%20Dance%20Theatre%20Move%20Press%20Release.pdf
22. Six artistes to get cultural awards at Istana. (1981, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, M. (1982, March 31). Singapore ballerina Goh Soo Khim. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, T. (2008, July 24). Hanging it up. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Leong, C. (1989, August 16). Lifetimes of music and dance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Yusuf, Z. (2009, March 7). Her World honours 3 women. The Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Tan, S. E. (1998, September 14). Growing by leaps and bounds. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chia, A. (2009, October 12). My childhood sweetheart. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Lam, D. (1982, March 8). Mother of ballet stars. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Walker, P. (1982, June 27). The dancing Gohs. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Martin, M. (2007, September 3). Dance master. Today, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Martin, M. (2007, September 3). Dance master. Today, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, T. (2008, July 24). Hanging it up. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chia, A. (2009, October 12). My childhood sweetheart. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, T. (2009, August 20). Graceful face-off. The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources

Schergen, J. & Goh, S. K. (1997). Goh Choo San: Master craftsman in dance. Singapore: Singapore Dance Theatre
(Call no.: RSING 792.82 SCH)



The information in this article is valid as at 17 June 2013 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

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