Singapore Women's Hall of Fame

Bringing tradition to the youth with Malay dance pioneer Som Said

Som Said, her husband Hj. Ahmad, posing with the crowd

At the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame (SWHF) school outreach programme, we always strive to inspire students in interactive ways.

On April 10, the SWHF invited Som Said, award-winning Malay dance choreographer pioneer and 2014 inductee, to share her journey in Malay dance with some 70 students from Catholic Junior College. This was part of the week long roving exhibition (8 – 18 April) that the SWHF had put up, where 12 inductees from the categories of arts, advocacy and STEM were featured.

For Reynardo, a Year Two student, it was his first time learning about the SWHF. “I thought that generally, males make good leaders so I look up to them but this is the first time I have heard women taking up leadership positions and it is great to learn that they are leading. I am inspired.”

CJC students were intrigued by Som Said and her work

After her sharing, Som invited a pair of volunteers to join her in demonstrating some important gestures in the Malay dance. Everyone, including the teachers, had great fun learning from the Malay dance pioneer.

One of the questions during the Q&A session pointed to the economic challenges she faced when Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts, Singapore’s first fully professional Malay dance company, was founded in 1997. Som replied that while the company was not affected by the Asian financial crisis, she had to borrow close to $40,000 from banks to buy computers in order to start the business and that was a big challenge for them.

Sandrie Lam, a Year Two student, commented that “it [was] very interesting seeing a female from a minority group overcoming the challenges and obstacles and becoming so successful. Her interest for dance started when she was young and it is inspiring how she grew her dancing passion from an interest to a life-time job and now transferring her love for dance to other people.”

When asked about how Malay dance can remain relevant to young people at present, Som replied that Sri Warisan now works closely with schools of all levels to introduce and bring Malay dance to the students. This includes various Arts Education programmes endorsed by the National Arts Council and Ministry of Education. Such programmes help young people to learn about Malay dance and the knowledge and beauty behind it.

It was a fun and engaging afternoon for all of us in the lecture theatre, and indeed a meaningful programme carried out by the SWHF.

For more information about our school programmes and roving exhibition, please visit the SWHF website or contact us at

Our SWHF exhibition setup
Som Said sharing her experiences
SWHF Heritage Walk


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